ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the adoption by the Mexican Congress of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Act earlier this week. While reform in the telecommunications sector is long overdue, the ‘’Ley Telecom” enshrines into law a raft of highly controversial measures, including broad data retention requirements and powers to shut down telecommunications services for the prevention of crime. The law was rushed through Congress without any meaningful parliamentary debate and ignoring the serious criticisms levelled against it by nongovernmental organizations, academics and experts on the subject.
Despite some positive elements on net neutrality, ARTICLE 19 believes that several provisions of the law contravene the Mexican Constitution and are in breach of Mexico’s obligations to protect the rights to freedom of expression and privacy under international human rights law, including:
- Prior censorship: Under Article 15, section LXI, the Telecommunications Federal Institute has the power to order the ‘precautionary suspension of transmission of content’. ARTICLE 19 is concerned that this power is coined in such vague terms that it could be used as a prior censorship measure contrary to Article 7 of the Mexican Constitution and in breach of Article 13.2 of the American Convention on Human Rights which requires that any restriction on freedom of expression must be clearly defined by law and prohibits prior censorship.
- Data retention and Cellphone Location Tracking (CLT) in real time: Articles 189 and 190 impose new requirements on telecommunications service providers regarding data retention and Cellphone Location Tracking (CLT) without adequate safeguards for the protection of the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. In particular, the law fails to provide for judicial authorization of CLT or access to communications data.
- Shutting down telecommunications services: section VII of Article 190 creates new powers to shut down telecommunications services for the prevention of crime despite the four special rapporteurs on freedom of expression making it clear in their 2011 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet that such sweeping measures can never be justified, including on public order or national security grounds, under international human rights law.
ARTICLE 19 will be closely monitoring the implementation of the law and its practical impact on the rights to freedom of expression and privacy.
For more information, please visit ARTICLE 19’s Mexico office website (Spanish).