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  1. 1. Friday, 12 July 2013 To the Presidents of the member states of MERCOSUR: We are writing to you as a coalition of organizations representing Latin American civil society, experts and academics, mainly from the member countries of Mercosur, in order to express our support for the initiative by Latin American leaders to discuss the worrisome monitoring to which millions of citizens from around the world are subjected by means of the systematic collection of communications data. This monitoring is being done without due process or a framework contingent on controls and accountability. We consider it a positive development that the highest authorities recognize the importance of privacy as an essential condition of the exercise of other rights, that go beyond freedom of expression, as declared by Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue in the report he presented to the UN Human Rights Council (a body on which sit three members of Mercosur). It is for this reason that we wish to lend our voices to this concerted effort, with the hope that Latin America can serve as a model of the kind of regulation that respects and allows for greater exercise of human rights. The issue of espionage that we are facing is also an opportunity for civil society and governments to devise together a regional policy that will enables us to maximize the potential of new technologies while at the same time protecting individuals. To that end, we support the initiative of various countries to begin a transparent and participatory process to regulate the Internet according to the following basic principles: • Expression: Ensure that the fundamental guarantee of freedom of expression applies with equal force to all means of expression, including Internet communication. • Access: Promote universal access to rapid and affordable networks as a means of strengthening democratic participation by citizens and the fair exchange of knowledge and information. • Gateway: The Internet must continue to be an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, see, say, listen, learn, create and innovate. • Privacy: Protect the privacy of individuals and defend their right to their personal information, communication, and devices. • Flow of information: Permit the free flow of information as a guarantee of the principles enumerated above, safeguarding them with regulation that guarantees the right to privacy and that outlaws the collection, use, and transfer of personal data when not specifically authorized by the holder of the data or by due legal process. Through civil society we offer technical support and follow-up and active participation and dialogue in order to secure these principles. This will help us overcome the crisis provoked by the flagrant and systematic violation of human rights recognized in articles 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as in articles 12 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these being the basis for publications regarding the practices of the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and some of its allies. The introduction of monitoring systems at the heart of global digital communications seriously threatens human rights in the digital age. This is why civil society in Latin America is urging our representatives to establish a mechanism by which we can ensure broad, profound and transparent debate throughout all society, to transform our region into a model of liberty and respect for human rights. We request that the member states of Mercosur act proactively in the face of actions by the NSA, without adopting hasty or premature measures that would affect free and open Internet architecture.
  2. 2. In light of the foregoing, we entreat the governments of Mercosur to set up conversational forums with civil society, experts, businesses and other actors in order to make the best decisions about Internet regulation—ones that will preserve these principles, implement policy to secure human rights in a democratic and participatory manner and, at the same time, conduct a study of the national security and monitoring systems in order to compel them to comply with the international framework for human rights, especially those associated with the principle of due process. Translated by Victoria Robertson