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Comment By UN Human Rights Office Spokesperson Marta Hurtado On Venezuela

Geneva, 14 January 2021

“We are deeply concerned by continuous and increasing attacks in Venezuela against civil society organizations, human rights defenders and journalists. In the latest incident, on 12 January in Zulia state, military counter-intelligence and regional police officers raided the NGO Azul Positivo. Documents were seized and six staff members were arrested. Five of them remain in detention. They have not been able to see their lawyers or families.

This is the second time in the last two months that the office of a humanitarian NGO has been searched and its staff questioned allegedly due to funding received from abroad. States should not impose undue restrictions on NGOs’ ability to access funding from domestic, foreign or international sources. It is even more troubling that these raids have been accompanied by statements from public officials calling for further criminalization of civil society organizations and their staff.

At least three media outlets were also targeted on 8 January, when public servants reportedly seized their equipment, sealed their offices and intimidated staff. These incidents followed similar cases of journalists being harassed or intimidated, as public officials issued a series of statements delegitimizing the media. There are increasingly worrying reports that journalists are censoring themselves out of fear.

We urge the authorities to stop targeting people for performing legitimate work, be it in the humanitarian or human rights sector or in the media. A free, diverse and active civil society is crucial for any democracy and it must be protected, not stigmatized or persecuted.”

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