On October 9, 2019, a Criminal Court in Caracas issued an order prohibiting a planned screening of a documentary at the University of Simón Bolívar (USB) or in any other public space.
USB intended to host a film forum on October 9 to screen Gustavo Tovar’s documentary, “Chavismo: the Plague of the 21st Century,” which looks at the effects of former president Hugo Chávez’s regime. Tovar, a documentarian and vocal human rights activist, faced severe persecution during Chavez’ regime, forcing him into exile.
On October 9, the 36th State Criminal Court ruled that the documentary could not be screened at USB or in any other public space. If USB or any other institution failed to follow the ruling they would face a charge of “promotion or incitement to hatred.”
Later that day, the Association of Professors of USB (APUSB) posted on Twitter that the film forum faculty and students discussed the documentary, academic freedom, and university autonomy. It is not clear if USB faculty screened the documentary on campus or if students and faculty watched the documentary privately.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about state-imposed restrictions on the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression or academic freedom on campus. State authorities are obligated to refrain from actions which restrict the freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of association, and academic freedom, all of which are protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Venezuela is a party. Restrictions on on-campus expression have a profoundly chilling effect on academic freedom and institutional autonomy, undermine democratic society generally, and may represent a grave threat to higher education on a national scale.