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IFEX-ALC demands the dropping of all charges and restrictions on Venezuelan rights defender Luis Carlos Díaz

A woman holds a banner that reads 'Free Luis Carlos', outside the Public Prosecutor's office in Caracas, Venezuela, 12 March 2019
A woman holds a banner that reads 'Free Luis Carlos', outside the Public Prosecutor's office in Caracas, Venezuela, 12 March 2019

RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

We, the members of the IFEX-ALC network, who work to defend freedom of expression and press freedom in 15 Latin American and Caribbean countries and who form part of the broader IFEX network that defends and promotes free expression worldwide, demand the dropping of all charges and reject the censorship imposed on the commentator and human rights defender Luis Carlos Díaz by Venezuelan state authorities in reprisal for his journalism work and information activism.

Díaz was arrested by Bolivarian National Intelligence Service officials (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional, SEBIN) on the afternoon of 11 March. He was not heard from after 5:30 p.m., when he left the headquarters of his workplace at Unión Radio. At 10:00 p.m., his wife, activist and political commentator Naky Soto, reported his disappearance.

At 2:30 a.m., Díaz was brought in handcuffs to his home by SEBIN officials. The officials carried out a raid and informed the journalist that he had allegedly committed "information crimes." The officials indicated that Soto was also named on the arrest warrant, but that since she is a cancer patient they were not going to detain her. They did, however, say that "if she filed a report, they would come looking for her."

On 8 March, Díaz was subjected to slander in a video published on the Twitter account of the Con el mazo dando programme, which is hosted by National Constituent Assembly president Diosdado Cabello. The video accused Díaz of being part of a conspiracy allegedly responsible for damage to the Guri hydroelectric dam that has resulted in power outages in Venezuela over several days.

On 12 March, Díaz was presented to the 31st Court of Control in Caracas, where he was charged with "public instigation to commit a crime" and released. Luis Carlos was also ordered to report to the authorities on a regular basis, ask for authorization to leave the country, and prohibited from speaking in public about his case.

In Venezuela there exists a persistent pattern of persecution from high level officials in the Executive against political dissidents and journalists, or any citizen who tries to exercise their right to freedom of expression. The targets of this persecution are subjected to illegal processes under the mantle of state impunity. Actions perpetrated under these policies include disappearances, mistreatment, serious restrictions on the personal and family lives of those affected and even crimes against humanity.

On the same day as Díaz's detention, the offices of the United Nations' and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' rapporteurs on freedom of expression expressed their deep concern over censorship in Venezuela. The organisations called on the country's authorities to immediately release journalists who have been deprived of their freedom and halt all censorship measures.

In view of the violation of Díaz's fundamental rights, having been subjected to enforced disappearance and cruel treatment, and in light of the harassment and threats against Naky Soto, we, the 23 organisations that form the IFEX-ALC network, call on the Venezuelan state to:

- Drop all charges and restrictions against Luis Carlos Díaz and compensate him for damages he and his family suffered as a result of the violation of his human rights.
-Halt the government's measures aimed at criminalising and discrediting Luis Carlos Díaz, Naky Soto and other journalists in reprisal for their work in exercising their right to freedom of expression via journalism and the defence of human rights.
- Stop all acts of political repression against the free practice of journalism and freedom of expression.

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