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The signatory organisations call on the authorities of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to drop all charges against the author Milagros Mata-Gil and the poet Juan Manuel Muñoz for writing and sharing a text. These measures account for the growing repression, abuse of power, and attempts to censorship by the Venezuelan government against writers, journalists, and media who are critical of the authorities.
“Today marks a month since their unfair detention. No writer or journalist should be jailed or sentenced for writing and sharing a text. No author is threatened in a democracy. The censorship mechanisms of the government of Nicolás Maduro are revealed in the harassment that Venezuelan writers face, as well as the corruption within the institutions that administer justice” said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International.
On March 31, 2021, Mata-Gil and Muñoz were arrested and imprisoned in the state of Anzoátegui, El Tigre, for allegedly committing the crime of "promotion and incitement to hatred", linked to a message shared via the mobile messaging application WhatsApp. The message talks about a party with 800 guests, during the current Covid-19 health crisis, and points to the lack of health and safety measures for the attendees, as captured in public videos. The message shows no incitement to hatred, but a call for attention to such irregularities.
Milagros Mata-Gil (1951) is a novelist, journalist and essayist, and a member of the Venezuelan Academy of Language; Juan Manuel Muñoz (1947), is a poet, chronicler, activist, and cultural promoter. Both authors were released on April 1, 2021 under precautionary measures which order them to appear in court every 30 days, to not speak about their case, and to hand over their phones and other work tools. These measures violate their fundamental rights.
On April 12, 2021, several organizations from the American continent signed and sent a letter to Maikel José Moreno Pérez, president of the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela, requesting all charges against the writers to be dropped. The president of the court did not respond to this call. The letter can be found here.
The signatory organisations believe that these measures equal a camouflaged prison, and epitomize the high level of impunity within the administration of justice in the Venezuelan government, as well as the increasing attacks and intimidation of media and journalists.
On April 20, 2021, Mata-Gil wrote in an article: “I was told: you cannot write on social networks about that topic, or about that person, or about his family, or about that ethnic group. For six months. I was also told that what was specially bothering them was the satirization of the event. But there was no such satire, only the description of some events that happened, and of how they happened (…)”.
We reiterate our call:
To Maikel José Moreno Pérez, president of the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela to:
• Drop the charges against the writers and return their work belongings.
And, to the Venezuelan government to:
• Respect its international obligation to defend fundamental human rights, as a signatory State to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
• Stop the harassment and intimidation of writers, as well as hindering of their work in all media, whether in print or online, including the economic penalties imposed to limit freedom of expression; cease the legal persecution and prosecution of print and digital media that criticize the official or governmental position.
• Refrain from using direct and indirect pressure mechanisms designed to silence the work of writers and journalists, in accordance with Principle 13 of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression.
Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones
PEN Chiapas Pluricultural
PEN Cuba en el Exilio
PEN Puerto Rico
PEN San Miguel de Allende
Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA)