MIAMI, Florida (August 23, 2011)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed concern at a court ruling in Venezuela banning the publication and distribution of the weekly news magazine Sexto Poder and called on officials there to immediately release its editor, detained in Caracas since last week.
The editor, Dinorah Girón, was arrested on August 21 on a court order after Sexto Poder published a number of photos under the headline “The Powerful People of the Revolution.” It was a satirical item depicting as cabaret dancers the heads of the Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office, National Assembly, Supreme Court and National Electoral Council, among others.
In addition to Girón the court order was also issued to the weekly’s publisher, Leocenis García. The two were accused of “instigation to hatred,” a criminal offense under Venezuela’s Penal Code.
IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, protested the action taken against Sexto Poder, declaring that “to impede the distribution of a news media is an abuse of power that encroaches on the Venezuelan people’s right to information.” He urged the government to “restore full rights to the publication and immediately release its editor, observing international principles on freedom of expression which say that no one may be sent to prison for expressing a critical opinion.”
Marroquín added that the IAPA is concerned that this kind of harassment of independent journalists and media in reprisal for their editorial stance could extend throughout the region.
For his part, the chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, said that the offense of contempt which is still imposed in Venezuela “belongs to the past and is far from the values established by the Inter-American Human Rights Court and Commission, which say that public officials should be tolerant of criticism and any such conflict may not be resolved through the courts.”
The Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information co-chairman, Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, news weekly Búsqueda, added that “this reaction is a new step by the regime of President Hugo Chávez against free speech and freedom in general.” He added that freedom of expression proves its existence “when harsh criticism, which can even be in bad taste, is tolerated by those in government, who are subject to public scrutiny by their own will.”
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 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.