By Alberto María Lasheras-Shine and Emilio Beccar Varela

On May 18 2005 the Senate approved Law 26,032 on Internet Services in order to include the search, receipt and dissemination of information and ideas through the Internet within the constitutional guaranty that safeguards the freedom of expression (Articles 14, 32 and 42 of the National Constitution).

The regulation, which was unanimously approved without controversy, guarantees freedom of expression through the Internet by including it within the constitutional guarantees in the same way as other communications media.

According to the initiative approved by the National Congress "the Internet is a modern means by which society as a whole can freely express itself, as well as gather information".

The new law strengthens two presidential decrees, Decrees 554/97 and 1279/97. Decree 554/97 declared it to be of national interest for all the inhabitants of Argentina to have access to the Internet in equal social and geographical conditions, reasonable tariffs and quality parameters. Decree 1279/97 proclaimed that the Internet is considered to be included within the constitutional provision that safeguards the freedom of expression, which means that it deserves the same consideration as all other communications media.

One of the principal objectives of Decree 1279/97 was to maintain the idea that:

"one of the essential characteristics of the Internet is its interconnectivity, by means of which users have the freedom to select information of interest, with the result that any attempts to manipulate, regulate or censor the contents of the service is absolutely forbidden by the law."

Freedom of expression on the Internet is also guaranteed in Argentina by the international treaties to which Argentina is party, among them the San José de Costa Rica Pact and the American Convention of Human Rights. The convention was implemented by Law 23,054 which, in Article 13(1), provides every person with the right to the freedom of thought and expression, including the "freedom to search, receive and spread information and ideas of every kind, without consideration of frontiers, whether orally or in written or artistic form or by any other procedure that is selected".

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