The law is a new excuse by the Nicolás Maduro regime to do away with the weakened freedom of expression.

MIAMI, Florida (November 9, 2017)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today condemned the recently-adopted "anti-hatred law" in Venezuela which it sees as "a new excuse by the Nicolás Maduro regime to do away with the weakened freedom of expression."

The Constituent National Assembly (ANC) yesterday (November 8) unanimously approved the "Law Against Hatred for Peaceful Coexistence and Tolerance." The 25-article law sets punishment of up to 20 years' imprisonment for "inciting to hatred," something that could be attributed to demonstrators protesting in the street against the government or who express criticisms and opinions on social networks and in news media.

The law, based on very ambiguous concepts, also envisions punishments for media that transmit propaganda and for political parties that promote "Fascism." It also sets sentences of 8 to 10 years' imprisonment of police officers and members of the military who do not go after these hate crimes.

IAPA President Gustavo Mohme condemned the law, declaring that "it criminalizes dissidence, tears up by the roots two of the most precious rights in a democracy, freedom of association and freedom of expression."

Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, added that the regime "thus continues the regulations that make it possible for it to legitimize its authoritarianism."

For his part Roberto Rock, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and director of the Mexico City, Mexico, portal La Silla Rota, said that "The dangerous new thing about this law is that it allows the government to show no mercy to common citizens who protest or express themselves on social media, it being that up to now its fight was more focused on the political opposition, independent journalists and media."

At its recent General Assembly held in late October the IAPA warned in its report on Venezuela about what was then a bill: "Paradoxically to all this atmosphere of censorship President Maduro has proposed to the Constituent National Assembly adoption of a law against hatred and intolerance. The bill would punish hatred in general terms, without defining it, and goes beyond what is foreseen in Article 20 of the Civil and Political Pact, which prohibits 'all advocating of national, racial or religious hatred that would constitute inciting to discrimination, hostility or violence.' The regime thus seeks to prohibit hatred as such, reserving for itself the right to determine what constitutes hatred and what should be punished. Without a doubt this is another mechanism to censor and create self-censorship."

At that same meeting there were approved two resolutions on Venezuela. One condemns the regime's repressive practice of restricting the delivery and renewal of passports and other identifications to journalists, and the other denounces the numerous violations of free speech and press freedom "with the aim of silencing dissident voices."

The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.