The Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, is sponsoring a law whose goal is to give his government complete control over the Internet. That control will be exercised through the creation of a state company that will manage broadband services in the Central American country, and that will decide who will receive licenses or permits to offer such services.
The initiative is promoted by the Executive branch as a policy to ‘modernize’ telecommunications in Nicaragua. The proposal has not yet reached the National Assembly for discussion, but has already generated much rejection, including from Nicaraguan private enterprises that are traditionally strong Ortega allies.
The law supposedly intends to promote and develop the national telecommunications network services, but in practice it seeks to give power to Telcor, to force companies that provide Internet service to provide “information and documentation related to telecommunication services that it requires from customers. It will also demand access to all the technical, economic and financial information for the “statistical purposes, control, monitoring and tariff setting.”
According to the association of Nicaraguan Internet, analysts and civil society organizations, the new law could involve a violation of the privacy of Nicaraguans, which would go against the Constitution. Opponents argue that if the law is approved, t will give the Executive Sandinista control of the communications made through Internet.
The initiative was harshly rejected in Nicaragua. One of the loudest opposition voices comes from the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), whose president and traditional ally of Ortega’s government, has spoken about the extent to which entrepreneurs oppose the Executive’s initiative.
“We are completely against it, because it seeks full control of Internet and because it goes in the opposite direction of the efforts of all public and private sector to attract investment to the country. It also goes against economic freedom,” said Joseph Adam Aguerri.
Along with COSEP’s concerns Ortega has found opposition from civil society organizations and human rights defenders who say that the law becomes an instrument of censorship and a violation of freedom of expression.
PEN International in Nicaragua, a group led by intellectuals and journalists, said it “categorically rejects state control of communications, as a violation of the inalienable right to freedom of expression, privacy of individuals, and unrestricted access of citizens to the content available on the Internet. ”
The bill has not been presented to the National Assembly, which is in control of the ruling Sandinista Party, but it is expected to have overwhelming support from Ortega’s allies. It is almost certain that the news law would be approved by the 63 Sandinista deputies of the camera.
The Executive so far has not commented on the criticism, but did hold meetings with the private sector.
“We are the ones who decide in the end which items will stay and continue to make the necessary consultations with the institutions involved”, said Tuesday the Sandinista deputy Jenny Martinez.