LA NACION EDITORIAL – The Nicaraguan regime has just expanded its repressive resources with the approval of a law against cybercrimes whose most outstanding characteristic is the criminalization of false information.
Sandinista legislators and their allies formed an overwhelming majority of 70 votes in favor of the initiative against 16 opposing legislators and 4 abstentions.
The law provides for two to five years in prison for anyone who spreads false news that causes “fear, anxiety or alarm in the population”, harms the honor, prestige and dignity of other people or endangers public order or “sovereign security ”.
The repressive purpose of the legislation, as often occurs in totalitarian regimes, is disguised as the need to combat crimes perpetrated through new technologies (hacking, identity theft, computer espionage, virus spreading, electronic fraud) and to protect citizenship from the harmful effects of false information.
The repressive purpose of the legislation is disguised with the need to confront crimes perpetrated through new technologies.
The spread of lies by electronic means is one of the great concerns of our times. Paradoxically, the most affected are open and democratic societies, but in them no one thinks to regulate the truth. By contrast, modern democracies are willing to tolerate a degree of falsehood in public debate in exchange for ensuring its breadth and vigor.
On the other hand, authoritarian regimes are obsessed with protecting the “truth” as a means of imposing a single version of events, naturally their own. Whoever offers another perspective is lying, creates confusion and endangers the security of the State. Erected as a judge of truth, the State cannot avoid becoming the rector of information and debate. That is the intention of Daniel Ortega.
Democracies understand that the truth is elusive and is often blurred or incomplete. For this reason, not even science dares to postulate absolute truths and its findings are always waiting for proof to the contrary. Just as in science all truth is provisional, in democracy all truth is debatable.
In authoritarianism, on the contrary, the truth is one and whoever departs from it deserves punishment.
The new Nicaraguan law is not, in reality, to combat cybercrime, but to create one in particular: the spread of fake news.
Other countries, including our own, have legislated on electronic crime without setting a trap for freedom of expression.
Advanced countries, such as the United States and Spain, are reluctant to accept the truth as a requirement of good faith for information, even in cases involving offenses against honor. In the first, Sullivan’s sentence against The New York Times exempts from liability anyone who has reported on an official without real malice, that is, without knowledge of the falsity of what is published and without reckless disregard for the truth. In the second, the courts have developed the theory of ex-ante truthfulness to protect the information, “even if it is inaccurate”, if the person who disseminates it had reasons to represent it as true.
With the cybercrime law, Nicaragua goes against the tide of the democratic world and the Ortega dictatorship intends to strengthen its absolute control by suppressing the courageous work of journalists and the media willing to risk their physical integrity and freedom to inform their fellow citizens.
We join the international protest against this new violation of human rights in the neighboring nation.
*This editorial was originally published in “La Nacion” on November 4, 2020. Read the original (in Spanish) here.
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