Argentina: Judge orders all ISPs to block the sites LeakyMails.com and Leakymails.blogspot.com

By: renata on 11 August 2011

Crossposted from Global Voices Advocacy

Using the motto “Let’s stop lies and hypocrisy”, Leakymails.com was a project designed to obtain and publish relevant documents exposing corruption of the political class and the powerful in Argentina. The site was open to publish emails either from official or personal accounts, pictures, videos, and any other document exposing misbehaviors or unethical actions of public figures in the South American country, where corruption is rampant. The problem of the website was the blurred line between the public sphere and the private sphere of public functionaries. Who decides what is really important for the general public?

The site raised concerns among different sectors, some saying that the publication of private emails was risking the personal data and privacy of individuals and that the content was largely irrelevant to fighting corruption.

Most of the documents published by the site so far are emails sent from personal and official accounts of prominent politicians, including the Private advisor of Cristina Fernández, the Argentinean President, Isidro Bounine and the Secretary of the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights, Santiago Canton and other visible people. The content, however, was largely irrelevant, daily or personal matters, with few exceptions.

Dr. Esteban José Rosa Alves, General Director of the Argentinean Ministry of National Security, denounced the websites to the judicial authorities arguing that their content was jeopardizing the national security and at the same time was risking the privacy of a number of public functionaries. Following the complaint and after a preliminary investigation, the National Criminal Court (Juzgado Nacional en lo Criminal y Correccional No.9, Secretaría No. 17) issued interim measures to block the site and ordered the National Communications Commission to instruct all Internet Service Providers to temporarily block access to LeakyMails.com and Leakymails.blogspot.com. The order was published here.

According to the Interim Measures (PDF document available in Spanish) the legal basis to order the blocking is to prevent the violation of rights protected by the Constitution of Argentina, including illegal disclosure of political secrets and military secrets, and the inviolability of personal correspondence and private papers.

The order to preemptively block a website before a criminal conviction might be against the American Convention on Human Rights, a binding treaty for Argentina, which establishes in its article 13 ‘Freedom of Thought and Expression’, that everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression. This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one's choice. It also provides that the exercise of the right provided for in the foregoing paragraph shall not be subject to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability, which shall be expressly established by law.

So far only few Internet Service Providers have blocked the sites, according to reports sent to Herdict.org. LeakyMails is communicating with many of their followers via Twitter (@leakymails) and has made the content available for anyone to download, created mirrors , registered other domain names, and instructed their readers to use mechanisms to circumvent the blockade.

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