Journalist reporting on Covid-19 jailed
The arbitrary detention, criminalisation and unfair conviction of Darvinson Rojas occurs in a context of widespread arbitrary detentions made against people critical of the government, or for claiming their human rights.
Venezuelan authorities have implemented a systematic and widespread policy of repression, including carrying out politically motivated arbitrary detentions, targeted extrajudicial executions, and using military courts to charge non-military with discretionary crimes, such as treason or rebellion; targeting those who are seen as critical of the government. Human rights defenders, and individuals who seek justice for human rights violations, have been subjected to targeted attacks and smear campaigns, in an apparent attempt to stifle their human rights work.
The FAES have a particularly dismal human rights record, especially regarding extrajudicial executions. In January 2019, those targeted were all young men from low-income areas, who were, or were perceived to be, critical of the government, and their participation in protests had been visible or publicised.
Additionally, the authorities refuse to recognise the true scale of the humanitarian emergency and deteriorating living conditions. The population in Venezuela faces severe shortages of food, medicines, medical supplies, water and electricity. By the end of 2019, the total number of people who had fled the country in search of international protection had reached 4.8 million.
In Darvinson Rojas’ case, his reporting on the spread of COVID-19 in Venezuela put him at risk of becoming a victim of the government’s policy of repression, given the firm grip authorities under Nicolás Maduro have over information on public health matters and the government’s inadequate response to it.
Darvinson was at his home in Mamera, Caracas, with his parents when a group of FAES officers arrived at his home asking to talk to him, initially with the excuse of an alleged “COVID-19 case”, before later asking him to reveal his sources giving him information about the cases of people infected with the virus in Venezuela. The FAES arrested his parents along with him, and took them to the same detention centre, where they were able to hear that FAES officers pushing Darvinson to release information about his sources, which also contravenes the principle of source secrecy protected by international law. After his parents were released, he was taken to another detention centre. After hours of uncertainty, his family was able to see him and speak to him on 22 March.
At the time this urgent action was issued, Darvinson had not been brought to a court to establish the charges and grounds of his detention. His lawyer believes this is not going to happen within the legal deadline of 48-hours after his detention.
Since Twitter is a massive social media platform in Venezuela, and other communication means are practically non-existent, particularly mail, we advise the use of Twitter as the main way to contact authorities in the country.
Alternatively, please address letters to the Venezuelan diplomatic missions in your country.