“Financial Panic” and Online Censorship in Guatemala

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The headlines in Guatemala's top newspaper, as well as on internationally popular site Boing Boing reported that a Twitter user was arrested by Guatemalan authorities, facing charges of “intent to incite financial panic." The last couple of weeks have been complicated for Guatemalans. Many human rights activists have received death threats via SMS; a YouTube video blamed high rank authorities for the murder of a prestigious lawyer, protests requesting the President to quit were live-streamed; and now a blogger and user of Twitter has been arrested on nonexistent charges.

Financial Panic as a Crime?

After some news of instability in the Guatemalan financial system spread via email last year, two commissions of Congress proposed and approved a law punishing the creation, distribution, or reproduction by any media or system of any information that might harm the financial system. On November 20, 2008, Decree 64-2008 introduced a new crime in the Guatemalan Criminal Code: “Financial Panic."

While the original purpose of the law was to be an instrument to protect financial institutions from “rumors” that might harm the stability and good reputation of the financial institutions, this time it was used as a tool of censorship by the office of the prosecutor, with intent to control the distribution of online content against the interest of the Government and its private-public bank.

In accordance with the Law, the actions of the alleged criminal must be effective, resulting into massive withdrawals and cancellations of bank accounts in any financial institution. Intent is therefore not prosecutable, as intent is not a crime. Furthermore, to be prosecuted one must have a motive.

Why was Jeanfer Arrested?

The accused blogger and Twitter user sent a “tweet” message to his 250 followers, only some of whom were Guatemalan. Guatemala, which has a population of approximately 13 million, has only about a 10% Internet penetration rate. Most of the clients of Banrural are either public officers or people living in rural, isolated areas. Too few rural Guatemalans can read, and too little Internet content is written in indigenous languages; therefore, many of the bank's users could not possibly have been effected by Jeanfer's tweet.

Even more suspicious was the quick and effective arrest in the land of impunity. In recent years the government has flaunted international criminal law, committed extra-judicial executions, and forced evictions. The judiciary, a branch of government that in other countries might serve as a check on violence and corruption, only exacerbates these problems in Guatemala. Plagued with inefficiency, capacity shortages, and constant threats against judges, the courts perpetuate the impunity system, where only 90% of the murders are prosecuted.

But in this case, the suspect was arrested as soon as authorities could; perhaps they thought it was a good idea to produce a “chilling effect” among the social networks in Guatemala. It wasn´t. Now the community is active both in local and global levels to fight for an open Internet and free flow of ideas using any media and enforcing their rights guaranteed by the Inter-American Convention of Human Rights.

The blogger has been fined approximately USD 5,000 and has been placed under house arrest.

Help us out!

Hi! I'm a concerned guatemalan citizen, blogger and twitter. What happened today was an effort from out corrupt government to protect the interests of the state bank. And to try to quiet down the wave of indignations that has swept over all Guatemalans.

Please help out cause by adding the #escandalogt tag to your tweets. We need the ranking if justice is to be made for our friend.

Help us keep our freedom of speech!

About: “Financial Panic” and Online Censorship in Guatemala

So shame this situation in Guatemala, Goverment is trying to punish people who works hard everyday to deploy our nation, this guy must pay a penalty of Q50,000 (around $6,000) for a simple comment of his mind! There are so many other people who has stealed and cheated banks as Bancafe and so other cases but police and judges can do anything but oppress our liberty of expresion...

A different aproach

There are issues you mentioned that nobody had said at the time.

About this case

I think your analysis is just quite right, laws here in Guatemala are just to protect interest on businness between goverment and banks... but other important crimes are just taken as something normal. In this case, @jeanfer was implicated and this bank said they got lot of closed accounts but in TV they said they are tottally good, no any problem since that message... How they can probe all closed accounts are cause of Jeanfer twitt? even when he got less than 200 followers, now he is more listened and that's long tanks to bank who wanted to shut his mouth... something is going on background... they must be aware because people now are really worred and who cause financial panic was the same bank...

These events are necessary

These events are necessary all over the world for the fact that people are usually connected with Internet, which, we can see the effect that it can do harmful and beneficial effects. The people that are doing this are trying to get your Facebook login info, and maybe even use your name and identity to get installment loans. Facebook is riddled with phishers and scammers trying to get personal info to commit identity crimes, and Facebook has been found wanting as far as doing anything about it.

This blog is a real

This blog is a real contribution to the debate. I think you are right on

Looks very interesting,

Looks very interesting, thanks for realise.

Protecting the Innocent is Always the reason for censorship

Countless times human rights are revoked by governments on the basis that the "innocents" have to be protected. This is dangerous ground being treaded upon. I don't think people need to be protected from Twitter. Most people would seek verification from another news source if someone tweeted about a bank failure (since tweeting is just people's random thoughts anyway - not news).

Don't take censorship too far

I can understand protecting the public, but I also think you have to give the public a little credit for verifying one individual's claims before making rash financial decisions.

Twitter user was arrested

A Twitter user was arrested by Guatemalan authorities, facing charges of intent to incite financial panic. " The last couple of weeks have been complicated for Guatemalans.

“Financial Panic” and Online Censorship in Guatemala

Twitter user was arrested by Guatemalan authorities, facing charges of intent to incite financial panic. " The last couple of weeks have been complicated for Guatemalans.

In accordance with the Law,

In accordance with the Law, the actions of the alleged criminal must be effective, resulting into massive withdrawals and cancellations of bank accounts in any financial institution. Intent is therefore not prosecutable, as intent is not a crime. Furthermore, to be prosecuted one must have a motive.

outsider's look

I don't want to give the impression that I'm from Guatemala since I am an outsider. What happened to Jeanfer can happen to anyone of us and worst to all of us- bloggers; twitter and facebook users; and the like. There are times that we really wanted to shout out what we feel and in such a way, we even sometimes be too tactless to say something because we wanted to share what we feel not what we think. Just like when one is sad, one will just cry even in the middle of the crowd not minding the shame. In the case of Jeanfer, I have two reminders that all of us must put in mind as internet users (to be more collective) that whenever we will shout out we should verify our sources. To be exact we should not lie. And the second thing, is that we should be mindful that the information that we shared will not affect a group of people or organizations. If it will, then its ok, rest assured they are verified and true.

Dave
ONLINE STOCK TRADING

Twitter

In my opinion Twitter is a complete useless API. Anyways it is an interesting story!

This is very serious

This is very serious thing. I had read a lots of emails mailing about stocks and they were big scams virtually rigging the share price, trying to influence the retail investors and luring them to buy the stocks.

I think government should keep tight censorship on such news, harden penalties and give big punishment, otherwise it must result in old people loosing life long savings.

Online Censorship

A law that punishes the creation, distribution, or reproduction by any media or system of any information that might harm the financial system sounds a bit arbitrary and flexible for being used pretty much any way the government sees fit. While perhaps meant well, there's also plenty of room for abuse.

It's silly to arrest people

It's silly to arrest people because of what he wrote something on his blog. This is a violation of human rights. But what about the law on freedom of speech? ...

interesting to read ideas,

interesting to read ideas, and observations from someone else?

Well i think its a high time

Well i think its a high time for the concerned authorities to look after the use of these social networks as people are doing some negative activities,being a logo design consultant i myself noticed propel involved in some objectionable activites on one popular social networks.

no censored

the censor is a very bad thing. ever

Censorship

A very serious thing Censorship is not good...

Website SEO

Interesting website to get

Interesting website to get useful tips for our business

In my opinion Twitter is a

In my opinion Twitter is a complete useless API. Anyways it is an interesting story!

hayda

That is very good comment you shared.Thank you so much that for you shared those things with us.Im wishing you to carry on with ur achivments.All the best.

Sad Incident

Its very sad incident, I think we must be provided with Freedom of speech, I don't believe in the charges put on that blogger, all these are lame. He found something wrong and that he pointed in his twitter update, so what's wrong. This shows that Guatemala's Govt. is unable to solve the problems and now they are moving offensively towards people who indicating those problems. I was searching for finger pulse oximeter on Google and I found this post. Thanks for sharing.

hayda

That is very good comment you shared.Thank you so much that for you shared those things with us.Im wishing you to carry on with ur achivments.All the best.

awesome

Wonderful! I really did not think about this topic before from your point of view. But now I am thinking about your idea. I've also discussed with my friends about your post.

Thank you Renata I've bookmarked this page for my reference.

Mandy Green Tea

Thanks

Wonderful! I really did not think about this topic before from your point of view. But now I am thinking about your idea. I've also discussed with my friends about your post.

Thank you renata. I've bookmarked this page for my reference.

Mandy Green Tea

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