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HRW: Venezuela should end censorship, media intimidation

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Saturday called on the Venezuela government to end its censorship and intimidation of media [press release] that challenge official reports regarding President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Chavez supporters are trying to keep details about his condition and treatment secret, with government agents going so far as to confiscate the computers of a blogger suspected of authoring tweets questioning official information provided about Chavez’s health. Although Chavez was unable to take office on January 10 because of his cancer, Venezuelan officials state that the country will not be holding a new election [JURIST report], despite a constitutional mandate that the President be sworn in on January 10. In a unanimous decision [BBC report], the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [official website, in Spanish] ruled last Wednesday that the postponement of Chavez's inauguration for a new term in office is legal.

Chavez has been a controversial figure in the region. In July, Chavez announced [JURIST report] that the country would withdraw from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) [official website, in Spanish]. In a statement during a military ceremony, Chavez announced the withdrawal and criticized the regional court, saying it is not fit to be called a human rights court. The decision came just after the IACHR concluded that the prison conditions of a man convicted in multiple bombings were a violation of his human rights. In 2011, Chavez criticized the IACHR [JURIST report] for ruling in favor of presidential hopeful Leopoldo Lopez, allowing him to run for office despite a separate court ruling barring him from the election. In October 2011, the Supreme Court of Venezuela ruled [JURIST report] that presidential hopeful Leopoldo Lopez remained banned from running in next year's elections. Lopez, an opposition leader, was considered to be a threat to Chavez. As a result of corruption allegations, he was banned from public office through 2014 by the country's comptroller general.

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