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New Internet regulation poses serious threat to free expression, says ANEM

(ANEM/IFEX) - The following is a 29 July 2008 ANEM statement:


Belgrade, July 29, 2008 - The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) strongly condemns the content of the "Technical Conditions for Sub-Systems, Equipment and Installations of Internet Network", and the way in which the document was adopted by the Management Board of the Republic Telecommunications Agency (Ratel) on July 11th of this year. It went into effect on the following day.

The ANEM is of the opinion that the "Technical Conditions" document that was adopted by Ratel will serve to enable serious and unlimited violation of basic human rights guaranteed by the Republic of Serbia's Constitution and by the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms - in particular, freedom of expression and the right to privacy.

It is not debatable that, according to the Telecommunications Act, public telecommunications operators are obliged to establish, at their own expense, sub-systems, equipment and installations for the legally prescribed electronic monitoring of certain telecommunications. The technical conditions for such sub-systems, equipment and installations are defined by Ratel, together with the telecommunications operators and state institutions in charge.

However, what is debatable and contentious is that, as far as the ANEM has been informed, in the procedure by which the "Technical Conditions" document was adopted on July 11th, there was no cooperation and/or consultation with the telecommunications operators, despite the fact that Ratel is legally obliged to hold such consultations. Also, the scope of the limitations on freedom of expression - that is, the scope of the invasion of privacy permitted by the above-stated conditions - is excessive and absolutely out of proportion with the overall aim to enable the legally-prescribed electronic monitoring.

ANEM would also like to point out that the Constitution, as well as the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, emphasizes that restrictions to freedom of expression and the right to privacy can only be imposed on exceptional grounds, and also notes, among other things, that such interference must be proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued. The overly broad definitions and requirements set out in Ratel's "Technical Conditions" document leave space for an indiscriminate, uncontrollable and unjustifiable monitoring of citizens' Internet activities, the gathering and analysis of statistical data in relation to these activities, the interception of e-mail messages and attachments, the interception of IP telephone communications, facsimiles and IP video communications, the interception of instant messenger communications, the interception of communications in peer-to-peer networks, and other similar forms of intervention by various state institutions.

ANEM demands that Ratel revoke the contentious "Technical Conditions" document and that it organize public consultations with telecommunications operators, as required by the Telecommunications Act, so as to define the conditions for the legally-authorized electronic monitoring of public telecommunications in such a way that the basic human rights of the people who use the telecommunications services will be safeguarded.

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