LATIN AMERICA

Constitutional Assembly in Caracas passes vague new law clamping down on ‘hate’ in the media

The law, passed by the pro-government assembly to rousing applause in the chamber, prohibits Venezuelans from spreading any message through television, radio or social media that instigates violence or hate.

Venezuela's Congress.
Venezuela's Congress. Foto:Cedoc.
Venezuela’s all-powerful constitutional assembly passed a wide-reaching law Wednesday that clamps down on social media and broadcasters alike by ordering prison sentences of up to 20 years for anyone who “instigates hate.”

The law, passed by the pro-government assembly to rousing applause in the chamber, prohibits Venezuelans from spreading any message through television, radio or social media that instigates violence or hate.

Public and private media outlets are “obligated to broadcast messages aimed at promoting peace, tolerance, equality and respect,” the law says.

Government backers seem to be mainly interested in controlling social media and broadcasters, with the law making only a brief mention of newspapers. Print publications are obliged to print the anti-hate law.

The measure drew swift criticism from international human rights advocates, who said the law cracks down on dissent by criminalizing peaceful protests, the hallmark of a democratic society. “The law seeks to end free speech in social media — a key space for Venezuelans to express themselves in a country with shrinking free speech avenues,” said José Miguel Vivanco of the New Yorkbased Human Rights Watch.

Backers of socialist President Nicolás Maduro have often accused opponents of being fascists spreading hateful messages. The law also targets political parties that promote “fascism, intolerance or national hate,” prohibiting them from registering with the government-stacked National Electoral Council.

That appears aimed at opposition parties that claim council officials committed fraud in recent regional elections won handily by pro-government candidates. Opposition party leaders have vowed not to participate in upcoming municipal elections.

The law requires administrators of social media accounts to immediately remove any hateful posts. It also calls for the creation of a commission to enforce the anti-hate law, which carries punishments of 10 to 20 years in prison.




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