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Venezuela: Drop charges against Milagros Mata-Gil and Juan Manuel Muñoz

Friday 30 April 2021 - 5:33pm

Milagros Mata Gil And Juan Manuel Muñoz

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 31 March 2021, Mata-Gil and Muñoz were arrested, imprisoned, and unfairly accused in the state of Anzoátegui, El Tigre, for allegedly committing the crime of "promotion and incitement to hatred", for writing and sharing an article by the WhatsApp application. The article talks about a party for 800 guests, during the Covid-19 health crisis, where there were no health or safety measures for the attendees, a fact that can be verified in public videos. In the text there is 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 to appear in court every 30 days, and with the prohibition of speaking about their case, as well as having their phones and other work tools seized; thus, violating their fundamental rights.

On 12 April 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. Please, see the letter here.

We believe that these measures equal a camouflaged prison, which demonstrates 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 20 April 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 the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

• Stop the harassment, intimidation and blocking of writers in all media, whether in print or online, as well as the economic criminalization of 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.


Signatories

CADAL

Fudación Aguaclara

Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones

PEN América

PEN Argentina

PEN Bolivia

PEN Colombia

PEN Chile

PEN Chiapas Pluricultural

PEN Guadalajara

PEN Cuba en el Exilio

PEN Ecuador

PEN Puerto Rico

PEN Internacional

PEN Quebec

PEN San Miguel de Allende

PEN Uruguay

PEN Venezuela

Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA)

PROMEDEHUM