APC statement: Venezuelan reforms must not affect human rights and freedom of expression on the internet
, December 2010
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is concerned about potential Venezuelan legislative reform that would delegate legislative powers to the President without clearly setting any limits. This will affect the power balance that is necessary in a functioning democracy as a guarantee for the validity, respect and exercise of human rights, including freedom of expression.
APC also expresses its concern regarding draft bills that would modify the laws on Telecommunications and on Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Electronic Media.Proposed modifications could limit the expression of critical voices in Venezuela and the conditions of internet access and use.
Draft laws would enable the Government to impose obligations on internet service providers to create mechanisms for content restrictions and control, and to hold InternetService Providers responsible for content published by third parties. These measures would impact on freedom of expression as they would curtail most dissenting voices.
APC considers that the possibility of sharing information and communicating freely using theIInternet vital to the exercise of human rights and the exercise of democracy. The APC Internet Rights Charter clearly states:
- Freedom of expression should be protected from infringement by government and non-state actors. * The internet is a medium for both public and private exchange of views and information across a variety of frontiers. Individuals must be able to express opinions and ideas, and share information freely when using the internet.
- The internet must be protected from all attempts to silence critical voices and to censor social and political content or debate.
- Organisations, communities and individuals should be free to use the internet to organise and engage in protest.
On December 15th, in response to the situation in Venezuela the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights stated “[…] the protection of human rights requires that state actions affecting the enjoyment of such rights in a fundamental way not be left to the discretion of the government but, rather, that they be surrounded by a set of guarantees to ensure that the inviolable attributes of the individual are not impaired. Moreover, the principle of legality, which must be respected when imposing restrictions on human rights, is jeopardized by permitting the delegation of legislative authority in terms that are overly broad and that could extend to criminal matters. The frequent concentration of executive and legislative functions in a single branch of government, in the absence of appropriate controls and constraints set by the Constitution and the Enabling Law, allows interference in the realm of rights and freedoms.”
Substantial changes in legal and regulatory environments must be designed and produced through a broad national consensus ,including a consultation processes and participation mechanisms that guarantee effective inclusion of perspectives from different stakeholders and social sectors.
APC trusts that the draft laws on Telecommunications and on Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Electronic Media may strengthen conditions for an open and free access to the Internet and full exercise of freedom of expression.
APC works to “empower and support organisations, social movements and individuals in and through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to build strategic communities and initiatives for the purpose of making meaningful contributions to equitable human development, social justice, participatory political processes and environmental sustainability.”