Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has a "free rein" to intimidate and censor political opponents thanks to a growing concentration of unchecked power, said a report released by Human Rights Watch.
"The accumulation of power in the executive, the removal of institutional safeguards and the erosion of human rights guarantees have given the Chavez government free rein to intimidate, censor and prosecute Venezuelans who criticize the president or thwart his political agenda," it said.
In a report, HRW said the human rights situation has grown "even more precarious" since its last major publication on the country in 2008.
“For years, President Chávez and his followers have been building a system in which the government has free rein to threaten and punish Venezuelans who interfere with their political agenda,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at HRW. “Today that system is firmly entrenched, and the risks for judges, journalists, and rights defenders are greater than they've ever been under Chávez.”
According to the report, Chavez’s government has "undermined freedom of expression through a variety of laws and policies aimed at reshaping the content of and control over the media."
The closure of Radio Caracas Television, large fines against private broadcaster Globovision can be considered an attempt by the government to control local press.
Vivanco said HRW's report could not be presented in Venezuela out of fears a visit there would "increase harassment" against local rights groups.
Source: AFP, DCMF