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Mexican Senate Passes #LeyTelecom Laws and Reforms

LeyTelecom

Protest against LeyTelecom, Mexico City. Flickr picture by user kinoluiggi. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Mexico's Senate passed two laws related to the constitutional reform on telecommunications broadly known as #LeyTelecom (Telecom Law) on June 4, 2014. The next step in the legislative process is to have the Congress receive the Senate-approved document to continue the discussion and eventually sign it.

In an extraordinary period of meetings, the Senate approved two draft laws: the Mexican State Public System of Radio Transmissions  Law and the Federal Telecommunications and Radio Transmission Law.

Also, some changes to other laws related to the same topic were passed. The group of reforms has caused controversy and discussions among citizens for several months now, because such changes will impact a wide range of stakeholders and activities like Internet use, content broadcasting in open television channels, competition among open television and cable tv providers, fixed and mobile phone rates, media access to handicap people, radio, among others.

Blogger Sopitas and a group of activists began a dialogue with government agents around the proposed reforms on April this year. Regarding the Senate-approved law they stated:

Sobre los cambios en el tema de Internet las leyes secundarias #LeyTelecom

Libertad de expresión

Lo bueno: Se garantizará el libre acceso a la información en la red e Internet se mantendrá como un espacio libre para la expresión de las ideas más allá de los medios de comunicación tradicionales.

Lo malo: Como existía ambigüedad en la iniciativa de ley en el tema de Internet, la solución fue suprimir los apartados que le preocupaban a la sociedad. 

Lo feo: Internet no es lo único preocupante de la Ley de Telecomunicaciones, SEGOB seguirá siendo el encargado de filtrar contenidos en radio y TV.

Inclusión de personas con capacidades diferentes y grupos vulnerables

Lo bueno: Se incorporarán diversas disposiciones que harán las telecomunicaciones más incluyentes para las personas con capacidades diferentes y para las comunidades vulnerables.

Lo malo: No existe un mecanismo que obligue a los proveedores de acceso a internet y a los medios de comunicación a que cumplan con requisitos de accesibilidad.

Lo feo: Tanto el tema de accesibilidad y los contenidos en otras lenguas deberían ser un tema prioritario.

Espionaje gubernamental telefónico 

Lo bueno: El objetivo de estas modificaciones a la ley será garantizar la privacidad de todos los usuarios, no se aceptarán la intervención de conversaciones telefónicas privadas sin la orden de un juez.

Lo malo: No es que no queramos confiar en la buena voluntad, ni que creamos que esto no se hacía antes sino que es preocupante ese espacio de colaboración con las empresas proveedoras de servicio y el gobierno.

Lo feo: En el país de los presuntos culpables, ¿Cómo podemos estar tranquilos si México, carga con historias de desapariciones forzadas, censura, persecuciones políticas y encarcelamientos injustos? (Incluso bajo criterios de jueces).

Regarding the changes on the Internet proposed by the secondary laws of #LeyTelecom

Freedom of Expression

The Good: Free access to information on the net will be guaranteed and Internet will remain a space for freedom of expression of ideas beyond those shared by traditional mass media.

The Bad: Since there were apprehensions on the draft law regarding Internet related issues, the solution was to erase the articles that worried citizens. 

The Ugly: Internet is not the only thing to be worried about on the Telecommunications Law. SEGOB (Interior Ministry) will continue to be in charge of filtering content in radio and TV.

Vulnerable and handicap people inclusion

The Good: New dispositions were incorporated that will make telecommunications more inclusive for handicap and vulnerable population.

The Bad: There isn't a mechanism that forces Internet access providers and mass media to fulfill the accessibility requirements.

The Ugly: Accessibility and underrepresented languages should be a priority issue.

Government Phone Espionage 

The Good: The objective of these reforms will be to guarantee privacy for all users. Phone tapping will not be allowed without a judge's order.

The Bad: We are not saying we don't trust the good will, or that we believe that this wasn't done before, but we are worried about the collaboration space between private providers and the government.

The Ugly: In the country of the presumed guilty, how can we be calm knowing Mexico carries on its shoulders a history of forced disappearances, censorship, political prosecution and unjust imprisonments (even under judge's criteria)?

The reforms passing caused the following comment by El Zappo [es]:

Pero sin duda, el golpe más duro de esta semana, fue la aprobación de la que muchos han dicho es una contrarreforma: las leyes secundarias en materia de telecomunicaciones. Contraviniendo el espíritu de la reforma original, expertos en el tema como el senador Javier Corral han dicho que es un “arcón de regalos” a Televisa.

No doubt the hardest blow of the week was the approval of what many say is a counterreform: the secondary laws on telecommunications. Going against the spirit of the original reform, experts on the subject like senator Javier Corral have said that it is a “gifts chest” for Televisa.

The said Congressman, Javier Corral [es] pointed out on Homozapping [es]:

La reforma que se aprobó la madrugada de este sábado (4 de julio) trastoca dos de los principales ejes de la reforma constitucional en Telecomunicaciones y radiodifusión: promover la competencia, la pluralidad y la diversidad en los medios de comunicación, porque echa por la borda dos de sus grandes definiciones: la de las telecomunicaciones y la radiodifusión como servicios públicos de interés general, y su concepción en materia de derechos humanos, centralmente el derecho a la información.

El Ejecutivo federal recupera por la vía de la ley secundaria atribuciones que la Constitución otorgó de manera directa y exclusiva al IFT en el artículo 28.

El caso más delicado en relación con las libertades de expresión y de información, se produce en materia de vigilancia y sanción en la transmisión de contenidos de la radio y la televisión, así como en la administración de los tiempos de Estado. Se le devuelve a la Secretaría de Gobernación en el artículo 217, fracciones VI, VII, VIII, IX y X, facultades de supervisión, monitoreo, reserva gratuita de canales, verificación y sanción de las transmisiones, así como establecer lineamientos específicos que regulen la publicidad pautada en la programación destinada al público infantil.

The reformed passed on this Saturday night (July 4) disrupts two of the main axis of the constitutional reform on telecommunications and radio transmission: allow competition, plurality and diversity on mass media because it throws away two of its greatest definitions: the telecommunications and radio transmission as public services of general interest, and their definition as human rights mainly the right of information.

The federal Executive regains power over the responsibilities that the Constitution had given directly and exclusively to the IFT (Federal Telecommunications Institution) in article 28.

Regarding freedom of expression and information, the most sensitive case is on the matter of surveillance and censorship over radio and television content, as well as management of the State's air time. The Interior Ministry gets back article 217, fractions VI, VII, VIII, IX and X which are the faculties of supervision, monitoring, free channel reservation, verification and transmissions approval; as well as the establishment of guidelines that rule advertising in children programs.

Before #LeyTelecom was approved by the Senate, Twitter user Alberto Lujambio wrote:

It's been a long time since I wasn't so ashamed of the shitty country we live in. Corrupt, raw, mediocre, third world. #LeyTelecom

Later, he added:

Our congressmen are thieves, our journalists are ignorant, and we are fawning slaves.

Mony de Swaan, former chief of the country's telecommunications ruling body, pointed out congresmen who voten in favor of #LeyTelecom:

Chiapas’ senator @zoerobledo voting in favor of #LeyTelecom, which insults indigenous radios, is an evidence of the distance he has over his constituent

Twitter user Mark Randolph James spoke of the difficulty of exposing these issues to a global audience: 

It is difficult and frustrating to explain a foreigner what is going on in our Congress with #LeyTelecom. The word Monopoly is so strange to them

User tavoselvas suggested that the issue will not be fully understood by the Mexican community:

As with everything that matters, #LeyTelecom is so unknown, distant and cryptic to our people that they'll never be aware of its real effects

The telecommunications reform, as well as the energy reform and the one that created the #NuevoIFAI (New Federal Institute of Information Access and Data Protection) resulted in a thorough review of the Constitution. Now, the passing of the so called “secondary laws” is having the Legislative Power busy and worrying the citizens. The people will be watching closely every stage of the process.

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