Derechos Digitales and LAC: the agenda for 2015

by Digital Rights LAC on February 26, 2015


Since the year is beginning, it is common to make predictions regarding the topics that will govern the agenda of public policies. I dare to predict the topics that, according to my intuition, will raise the biggest debates within our region.

By Eduardo Bertoni, CELE*.

I want to start mentioning an event that cannot be left unnoticed: the annual meeting of the “Internet Governance Forum” -IGF- which will take place in Brazil this year. Notwithstanding the different opinions that may arise regarding such forum, its importance cannot be denied. On the one hand, the fact that it will be carried out in Brazil after only one year of the historic meeting held by the “NET mundial” , will continue to increase the involvement of the Latin American countries concerning worldwide discussion of Internet governance. Countries whichdidnot attend the forum in the past may decide to do it this year, not only given the attractiveness of Joao Pessoa’s beaches but also due to the topics that have been considered key for the meeting that will be held this year: “The Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development” as general topic and others which shall be the centre of discussions, such as inclusion and diversity; open network; multistakeholder co-operation; Internet and human rights.

These matters are in fact wide enough to include an extensive range of topics. Given the lack of accuracy, to anticipate that in 2015 we will be discussing issues related to inclusion and diversity or to Internet and Human Rights in Latin America would be like saying nothing. However, it is important to highlight that recent events in different countries allow topics to be limited to the ones we may have to pay attention in the near future.

For instance, during the second semester of the past year Argentina and Mexico have passed telecommunications lawsthat will be enforced in 2015 and that include such topics.

Digital Argentina, a law that has been passed without consensus and with little debate, includes aspects the implementation of which may set the course of respect or violation of rights on the Internet. The draft adopted has been criticized by different sectors due to, among other reasons, the lack of accuracy regarding some obligations that will be undertaken by licensees of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and by other users. Moreover, the draft does not guaranteethat enforcement authorities are created in a way they can act independently. It is not good to depend on statutory rules for these issues but the only hope we have left comes from following them up so that Digital Argentina does not end up being useless, or much worst, a remedy that was necessary for telecommunications systemsbut that it is worse than the disease.

In July 2014, Mexico approved a reform of the telecommunications law which is already controversial and criticized by different sectors. The main concerns are based both, in the fact that the door of intermediaries liability is opened in a way that might affect freedom of expression and access to information, and in the fact that the regulation concerning the record of communications may violate the privacy of users. Notwithstanding the enforcement of the law, some unconstitutional acts that have been raised before courts will be debated in 2015.

During the last months of the past year, legislative debates in Chile have been initiated with the purpose of modifying the Law 19733 on the Freedoms of Opinion and Information and the Exercise of Journalism. Basically, the aim is to include as a means of communication any digital publication which is published at least every 4 days imposing excessive and disproportionate burdens. The NGO DerechosDigitales has already identified the problems that may arise with such initiatives. Although several representatives have also criticized the draft, the law returned to the Science and Technology Commission in order to deal with problematic issuesd, therefore it will be important to observe the development.

Finally, the debate on the “right to oblivion” which was generated worldwide upon the ruling of the High Court of Justice of the European Union has not yet finished. During the second part of the year, draft bills to enforce it within Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, among others) were presented, although they gave rise to a great number of criticism.

As it may be seen, some topics are common denominators within the region. Some were raised upon the reforms of the telecommunications laws and we will surely focus on them, throughout these pages, discussing, reporting and proposing solutions during 2015.


*Eduardo Bertoni (@ebertoni).PhD in Law. Director of the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access of Information (CELE) at the Universidad de Palermo. Former Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at the Organization of American States.