***Learn more about the work of the Special rapporteur for freedom of expression and Inter-American human rights system at: http://www.hrea.org/learn/guides/OAS.html Press release Organization of American States August 2, 2004 Washington, D.C.-The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed regret over the July 27 ruling of the Constitutional Chamber of Venezuela's Supreme Court upholding a law requiring journalists to be licensed by an association prescribed by law in order to practice journalism. The decision declares a constitutional challenge ("recurso de nulidad") filed in 1995 against various articles of the Law on the Practice of Journalism of 1994 to be unfounded. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in its fifth consultative opinion of 1985 (known as OC5/85), determined that compulsory membership in an association prescribed by law for the practice of journalism is incompatible with Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Venezuela is a party. The Court noted that "a law licensing journalists, which does not allow those who are not members of the 'colegio' to practice journalism and limits access to the 'colegio' to university graduates who have specialized in certain fields, is not compatible with the Convention." The Inter-American Court further added that this type of law "would contain restrictions to freedom of expression that are not authorized by Article 13(2) of the Convention and would consequently be in violation not only [of] the right of each individual to seek and impart information and ideas through any means of his choice, but also the right of the public at large to receive information without any interference." The principal idea clearly defined in this paragraph has been invoked repeatedly by the Office of the Special Rapporteur since its creation, and it was reiterated by the IACHR in 2000 in its approval of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression. The Declaration develops the guarantees to freedom of expression under Article 13 of the Convention in greater depth, with Principle 6 of the Declaration noting that "[c]ompulsory membership or the requirement of a university degree for the practice of journalism constitute unlawful restrictions of freedom of expression." The same principle further notes that "[j]ournalistic activities must be guided by ethical conduct, which should in no case be imposed by the State." The Office of the Special Rapporteur regrets that the highest court of justice in Venezuela has upheld a law requiring journalists to be licensed by an association prescribed by law in order to practice journalism because of the implications that this decision could have for the exercise of freedom of expression and of the press in Venezuela.
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