Venezuelan Youth Human Rights Organisation Publicly Threatened

Last night, the Venezuelan youth human rights organisation Un Mundo Sin Mordaza (a world without gags), was publicly threatened by one of the most powerful men in Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello. During his weekly Television show, Cabello suggested that the youth organisation is preparing for a new wave of protests to sabotage the upcoming presidential elections, and that it is acting against the newly adopted law against hate.

Un Mundo Sin Mordaza participated in last year’s Defenders’ Days, and is considered to be one of the most important cultural organisations devoted to freedom of speech in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s questioned National Constituent Assembly (ANC) unanimously passed the “Law against Hate for Peaceful Coexistence and Tolerance” on 8 November. Since the ANC started its operations in August this year, allegedly rewriting the constitution, the opposition dominated National Assembly has been left without powers.

The Law, which is supposedly written as a tribute for the more than 120 fatal victims of the past month’s demonstrations against President Maduro and his government, will, according to national and international watchdogs, have a severe impact on the already limited civic space in Venezuela. It will strictly curtail people’s right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Among other things, the new law includes prison sentences of up to 20 years for anyone inciting hate on social media. As “hate” is not defined in the law, the risk for arbitrary implementation by the courts is very high.

The fact that Diosdado Cabello is a member of the ANC makes the threat against the Un Mundo Sin Mordaza even more severe. Civil Rights Defenders had the opportunity to speak to representatives of the organisation just after the threats were pronounced. Here is what they told us:

“Last night on his weekly TV show, Diosdado Cabello accused us, Un Mundo Sin Mordaza – an organisation that promotes and defends human rights through art and culture – of preparing sabotage of the presidential elections. His false allegations were based on a series of workshops on the “art of protests”, digital marketing, digital security and non-violent struggle,” said Un Mundo Sin Mordaza.

Like the international and national watchdogs, Un Mundo Sin Mordaza is highly critical towards the new Law Against Hate.

“The Law Against Hate pretends to legalise the censorship of social media and other forms of mass communication. It is based on the Government’s own political concepts on hate, terrorism and threats, and establishes disproportional penalties for those who share information against Nicolas Maduro’s Government on social media. The law also violates the National Constitution of 1999, which establishes that only the National Assembly has the power to legislate, especially in criminal matters,” said Un Mundo Sin Mordaza.

“This law cannot be considered to be based on the constitution, as it was approved by the National Constituent Assembly, which was not established according to the the procedures in the electoral law defined in the Constitution. The Venezuelan people was never consulted on whether it wanted a new constitution. This makes both the ANC and all its actions invalid,” Un Mundo Sin Mordaza continued.

In the light of the new law, we asked Un Mundo Sin Mordaza about what makes last wednesday night’s accusations by Cabello dangerous for the organisation.

“The purpose of the Law Against Hate is to criminalise anyone who has a dissenting opinion to the Government. Sin Mordaza has been characterised by defending freedom of expression, condemning human rights violations and denouncing these violations at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This evidently goes against Maduro’s Government. Every day we raise awareness among the international community about the crisis in Venezuela and this, for the Venezuelan Government, means that we spread hate on social media. This thus makes any member of our team vulnerable under the new law,” said Un Mundo Sin Mordaza.

Yesterday, Rodrigo Diamanti from Un Mundo sin Mordaza met with Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS). In his tweet, Almagro strongly condemns the Venezuelan Government’s authoritarian attempt.