Tuesday 28 March 2023

“Gag Law” approved by Ortega will enter into force in 60 days

Sandinistas defend that the law is not to "unleash a witch hunt", but they maintain discretion to decide what is false news or crimes

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TODAY NICARAGUA – The 70 votes of the ruling Frente Sandinista (Sandinista Front) in the National Assembly approved, without opposition, the Special Law on Cybercrimes, known as the “Ley Mordaza” (Gag Law), which aims to regulate content on the internet and silence the critical voices of Ortega’s opponents who make complaints of violations against human rights in Nicaragua.

The Gag Law establishes penalties ranging from two to eight years in prison for the commission of different crimes, including the spread of false news, the disclosure of confidential information of State institutions, or unauthorized access to the web pages of the Government for the modification or obtaining of information.

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The Gag Law empowers the Government so that it can request the service provider companies “to collect, extract, or record data related to a user, as well as data traffic in real time.”

A law for discretionary use

Liberal deputies in the plenary reiterated the warnings of analysts and lawyers about how the Gag Law is ambiguous about the definitions of fake news or what is a cybercrime and, therefore, represents a danger for all citizens of the country and the media.

“What must be seen in these laws is the issue of discretion to decide what is a cybercrime and where and who will be persecuted with these cybercrimes, which, in this Law, along with the others (Law of Regulation of Foreign Agents and Perpetual Chain), they seek to promote that well-founded fear of persecution that the Nicaraguan population is having,” criticized liberal deputy Azuceña Castillo.

However, Orteguista legislator, Carlos Emilio López, defended the Gag Law, as did his colleague Wálmaro Gutiérrez, promoter of the Foreign Agents Regulation Law, claiming that it is not designed for persecution, but rather to modernize Nicaraguan legislation and “protect the families”.

“At least for the deputies of the Sandinista National Liberation Front bloc, the objective we have when we legislate on this type of crime is not to carry out a persecution or a witch hunt,” defended Gutiérrez.

For his part, López assured that “the liars are out of business, those who are part of the industry of lies on social networks, those who create and spread false news creating alarm, fear, anxiety, affecting the economic stability, public order, health or sovereign security, as when they said that the Army tanks were in Managua repressing and it was false, or as when they said that a plane was traveling in Managua, Masaya and Carazo spraying poison. Lie! It never happened. Like when they said that thousands and thousands of Nicaraguans were infected and thousands and thousands of deaths due to the covid. False!”.

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The last reference to which López alludes, would also include the reports released by the independent COVID19 Observatorio Ciudadano (Citizen Observatory), which since the beginning of the pandemic carries out an independent monitoring of suspected cases and deaths associated with covid in the country, given the negative of the Minsa to reveal the real data on the progress of the pandemic.

The Sandinistas have also made it clear that criticism and questioning on social media will be persecuted, although they refer to it as slander.

“We are legislating so that we are respected in social networks, because in some networks it is customary to slander, threaten,” said deputy Maritza Espinales.

Ortega Assembly consults the “Gag Law” only with official media

The Gag Law was “consulted” only with sectors related to the Ortega regime, mainly the propaganda media, sounding boards for President Daniel Ortega and vice president Rosario Murillo’s messages.

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Critics also claim that members of the National Police, the Nicaraguan Army and the Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Correos (Telcor) were consulted, the independent media was not allowed to partciicpate in these consultations.

In the list of media consulted, are the Ortega propaganda outlets: televsion channels 2, 4, 6, 8, 13, La Nueva Radio Ya, Radio La Primerísima, and included in this list the Young Communicators Network and the Ministry of Governorate.

They also ensured that within the now Gag Law, the contributions that were sent in writing by the Education, Culture, Sports and Social Media Commission, the Infrastructure and Public Services Commission and the General Directorate of Analysis and Monitoring are included. Economic Budget of the National Assembly.

During the plenary discussion, Orteguista legislator Edwin Castro assured that they received in writing the contributions of the Nicaraguan Internet Chamber of Telecommunications (Canitel), although it is not known what those contributions were.

“And if you did not know, because it seems that my colleagues from the PLC are not here in the Assembly, the Nicaraguan Chamber of Internet and Telecommunications sent their comments to the Law in writing, which were also seen and incorporated in such a way that there were consultations with the private operators,” Castro defended for the criticism that the Law was only consulted among Sandinista sectors.

The Law would enter into force 60 days after it is published in La Gaceta.

Article originally appeared on Today Nicaragua and is republished here with permission.

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