Democracy and freedom of opinion and expression on the Internet

Marlon Reis[1]


With deep concern I read the article published in a newspaper of wide circulation in Brazil which revealed that the Attorney General of the Chamber of Deputies seeks to remove negative posts regarding policymakers from the internet.


Politicians are public people by definition. The legal protection of their image and privacy is submitted to certain constitutional values, guaranteeing a special protection of freedom of opinion and thought as well as a broad access to information.


The privileges of citizens in this regard were even ensured by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose text is clear in stating: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. "


Those not able to accept the criticism or exposure should not enter the field of politics. People have the right to publicly express their opinions about the events involving their institutional leaders.


Everyone has the constitutional right to express their thoughts when judging those who hold public offices, elective or not. The limitation of this right may be considered exclusively by the Criminal Courts, with the estrict compliance of due process of law.


The internet is undoubtedly the new Agora where democracy comes alive in the XXI Century. The Arab Spring and several changes of governments would hardly have occurred had the world wide web been policed. The totalitarian governments are well aware of the liberating potential of this medium for social interaction, which is why they soon try to submit it to shackles.


As stated by Larry Diamond, from the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) of the University of Stanford, “The growth of technologies that empower individuals and nonstate actors is among the most hopeful dimensions in the strugggle for human freedom and political participation”. Thus, we need to reinforce the free access to these technological tools in order to enhance democracy building processes.


We may affirm the freedom of expression on the internet. It is a condition for civility and for the development of the popular sovereignty. To fail at this task will result in a continued assistance to the representatives fighting to silence those who invested them temporarily in their public mandates.

[1] State judge in Brazil, a founding member of the Movement to Combat Electoral Corruption, winner of the 2012 UNODC Award as recognition of the work in the fight against corruption and organized crime, as well as the promotion of transparency in elections during the year 2012.

Márlon Reis.
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