August 28, 2008

Venezuelan NGO Concerned Government Will Control Internet Access – Daily

Text of report by Venezuelan newspaper El Universal website on 27 August

[Report by Reyes Theis: "Government Plans To Establish Control Over Internet Access"]

The failed Presidential Decree No 6,244, which will enact the Organic Telecommunications, Information Technology and Postal Services Law, stipulates the creation of a single Internet connection access point, which according to Carlos Correa, director of the NGO Public Space, would allow the government to monitor Web content.

The final 18th clause of the bill states the following: "The executive branch will establish a point of interconnection, or access point, to the network of Internet service providers, with the aim of managing all traffic to and from the geographical area of the Republic (...)."

Correa explained that, currently, Internet service providers do not have to connect through the National Telephone Company of Venezuela (CANTV) to provide Internet access, but can rather provide direct access.

Correa said that "the concern is the content control mechanism that could be implemented (by the government) if there is only one single access point available."

"What guarantee is there that there will be no control over society and that this Internet access point will not affect the access to certain types of information?" Correa asked. "Such provisions create reluctance and concerns."

"Security" Reasons

Another part of the bill includes the presidential authority to declare as "government restricted" the services and activities provided by telecommunications, information, and postal services "for national security and defence." Only the head of telecommunications services has this authority under the current Telecommunications Law.

According to Correa, the freedom of speech restrictions are allowed for security and defence reasons, but for this "(the government) must prove that there is a need to perform that restriction (of radio electronic and telecommunications sources)." Correa added that "what exists is an extension of the executive branch's jurisdiction and no kind of institutional control. Such decisions are unilateral."

The bill was ready for Chavez's approval, using the special powers bestowed on him to legislate, but will be finally sent to the National Assembly for its approval.

Originally published by El Universal website, Caracas, in Spanish 27 Aug 08.

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