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Webinar: Disconnected Democracy: The Impact of Internet Shutdowns on Freedom of Expression in Latin America

Webinar: Disconnected Democracy: The Impact of Internet Shutdowns on Freedom of Expression in Latin America

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On the 8th of November 2023, we held a webinar on the growing trend of internet shutdowns in Latin America.

Context

The right to freely receive and share information is a cornerstone of democracy, and the internet has empowered individuals to exercise this right. Because of its essential role in facilitating this, access to the internet itself should be protected.

Yet, in Latin America, as in other parts of the world, internet disruptions pose a growing threat to press freedom and freedom of expression. Across Latin America threats to connectivity are cropping up frequently in nuanced and regionally specific ways. From the alleged use of jammers to block internet at national strikes in Colombia to human rights abuses and internet outages reported in Northern Paraguay, critical voices are increasingly silenced before they can be heard.

The Webinar

What is an internet shutdown or disruption and what are the different forms it can take? What damage can it do to freedom of expression and the right to protest? How can legal protections be put in place to prevent abuses of these rights? The panellists discuss these questions as well as strategies and case studies from across Latin America.

Emmanuel Vargas discusses the case that El Veinte, the organisation he is co-director of, just won in Colombia. During national strikes in Cali, Colombia the internet suddenly went down, especially when journalists neared police armoured vehicles that were present at the strikes. Despite persistent calls from journalists as well as international human rights organisations, the government did not investigate the shutdowns. In October this year the Colombian Constitutional Court declared that the government had violated the rights to freedom of expression and association because it failed to investigate the alleged use of Internet blockers during a national protest in Cali, Colombia.

Eduardo Carrillo discussed a report produced by the organisation where he is co-executive Director, TEDIC. The report details how internet blockages in Northern Paraguay caused human rights violations in Northern Paraguay.

Watch the full webinar to learn more about these case studies and how they can affect the future of Freedom of Expression across the region.

Panellists

Lucía Camacho, is a lawyer and associated researcher at the Policy Observatory of the Global Campus for Human Rights. She is also the Coordinator of Public Policies at Derechos Digitales, a Latin American non-profit organisation whose fundamental objective is the development, defence and promotion of human rights in the digital environment.

Eduardo Carrillo is an international relations professional and researcher with a particular interest in the economic and social development of Paraguay. He is currently the co-executive Director of TEDIC.

Emmanuel Vargas is the co-director of El Veinte, a Colombian organisation that works for the legal defence of freedom of expression for journalists and independent media.

Raissa Carillo (Moderator) was a lawyer in Colombia since 2017 and has extensive experience in litigation and defending freedom of expression. She is currently a Legal Officer at Media Defence, a human rights organisation whose main mission is to provide legal assistance to journalists, citizen journalists, and independent media worldwide.

To learn more about our work on internet shutdowns, read our article about  their impact on freedom of expression globally. 

You can also learn more through our free online modules on the restriction of access to the internet available on our Resource hub.

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