Argentinian government limits civic participation in WTO meeting

Association

On 29th November 2017, the Argentinian government refused to accredit the participation of 65 civil society experts ― trade unionists, development advocates, digital rights activists, environmentalists, and others ― a few days before the 11th Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Buenos Aires.

The activists represented 20 different groups from various countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Finland and Indonesia, among others. The majority of them work together through the global Our World Is Not for Sale network, promoting sustainability, social justice and a democratic multilateral trade system.

In a statement explaining its decision in regards to the 65 who could not participate in the WTO meeting, Argentina’s foreign ministry said it had blacklisted NGO representatives “who had made explicit calls for manifestations of violence through social media, expressing the intent to generate schemes of intimidation and chaos”.

Civil society organisations have objected to the nomination process for the Ombudsman of Argentina, as this process is taking place in Parliament without public participation. On 29th November 2017, a group of 23 organisations issued statement requesting an open and transparent selection process to guarantee the election of an Ombudsman with the legitimacy to defend human rights. Civil society pushback and the government's inability to agree on a candidate has led to the postponement of the nomination until February 2018.

Peaceful Assembly

On 17th October, 78 days since his disappearance during a protest, the dead body of Santiago Maldonado was found in the Chubut River. The autopsy revealed that Maldonado had drowned in the river and that "there was no sign of violence".

In a separate incident on 14th December, people took to the streets to reject the president's proposal for pension reform. It was reported that demonstrators gathered in front of the parliament building denouncing the proposal and clashed with police who used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters. It was reported that at least 40 protesters were detained. 

Expression

A bill on the responsibilities of internet intermediaries passed at the end of 2016 has been sent to the Chamber of Deputies without going through the Freedom of Expression Commission. According to Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (Civil Rights Association - ADC):

"the bill approaches two fundamental issues related to freedom of expression in the digital era: the governmental power to control –directly or indirectly- the information on the internet and the power of private platforms to exercise this control with autonomy".

ADC asserts that the bill gives discretionary powers to internet platforms, which per their terms and conditions, can decide on online content without having to be accountable to public authorities. If applied in a wrong way, they could influence and impact freedom of expression exercised by certain individuals or groups communicating via the internet.

In addition, on 26th September 2017 the Executive Branch issued a decree modifying the responsibilities of the Access to Public Information Agency. ADC is alarmed about the serious constitutional problems within the decree as it questions how efficiently and effectively the Agency can fulfill its responsibilities, especially concerning its authority to apply the Personal Data Protection Law.

ADC considers that any attempt to modify the Agency should be debated in Parliament so that legislators can have input on the changes to a regulation they initially enacted.