Popular Venezuelan newspapers. Photo by Cristobal Alvarado Minic.

Last Friday in Geneva, it was Venezuela’s turn to be examined by the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations. Venezuelan PEN worked closely with International PEN to submit a statement about freedom of expression and other pressing human rights issues. In its five-page report, PEN cited grave concerns about freedom of the press, writing that “restrictions which prevent journalists from accessing sources from state organizations to find out information on public policies have worsened considerably in 2011, because it is absolutely forbidden for the private media to attend national political events.” The report also states that media companies are dependent upon the government to renew licenses and that criminal suits are “commonly used” against journalists who criticize official policies, citing the cases of Leocenis Garcia, Gustavo Azocar, and Francisco “Pancho” Perez. Severe import restrictions on books are effectively banning works from entering the country and bankrupting bookstores. Cultural institutions are also being shut down, such as the Museo del Oeste Jacobo Borges, which holds important literary events and provides literacy education to the local community. The museum’s entire collection was seized by the government. The Universal Periodic Review process reviews the human rights records of 192 UN member countries every four years. The process encourages civil society input and challenges governments under review to commit to measurable improvements based on principles of dialogue and consensus. Led by PEN International, PEN centers around the world are participating in this important mechanism and will submit several contributions this year.   Read Venezuela PEN’s full report here in English and Spanish.