CARACAS – Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) passed on Wednesday a law that makes the spreading of messages instigating hatred toward people or groups due to their race, class or political ideology punishable by up to 20 years behind bars.
Any media outlet found to be promoting these types of crimes will have their licenses revoked, the law states.
“Whosoever may publicly ... incite hatred, discrimination or violence against a person or group of people based on their actual or presumed membership in a particular social, ethnic, religious, political group ... shall be liable to 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment,” Article 20 of the “Anti-Hate Law” states.
Leftist President Nicolas Maduro personally pushed for the measure to do away with alleged messages of racial, class and political hatred that he says triggered a wave of protests against his government between April and August of this year that left 120 dead.
Unanimously approved by the ANC, a plenipotentiary body created this summer that is not recognized by the Venezuelan opposition nor a portion of the international community, the law also could lead to prison terms of up to 10 years for police and members of the military who fail to combat these crimes and for medical personnel who discriminate against patients.
It also states that political parties that “promote fascism” and instigate hatred would be barred from competing in elections.
Maduro, ANC President Delcy Rodriguez and other high-ranking members of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela frequently call opposition parties the “treasonous right” or “fascist.”
The law also would force state-run and private media to disseminate state-approved content that promotes “diversity” and “tolerance.”
Media owners who fail to include these messages in their programming or pages would face fines equivalent to 4 percent of their gross revenue from the tax year prior to the one in which the offense occurred.
The law furthermore regulates social networks and social media companies, which would also face fines if they fail to take down messages of hate within a period of six hours.
The National Association of Journalists was one of the first entities to speak out against the law, saying on Twitter it would “merely legitimize censorship and criminalize opinions” and amounted to a “direct attack on freedom of expression.”