Freedom to communicate, a fundamental right
Ideas make us unique; as human beings we define ourselves by them. However, they have little impact if we lack the ability to communicate. For example, if we did not have the ability to convey the scientific achievements we have obtained over the centuries, it would be impossible to accumulate the knowledge that we have gained.
This is one of the reasons why in Grupo Salinas, through Caminos de la Libertad, along with The Aspen Institute, we decided to support the debate on freedom and connectivity in our hemisphere through the report "Freedom and Connectivity: Advancing the Freedom to Communicate in the Americas."
We recently presented this study during a tour that we made in Washington, DC and later in Mexico City, in which the conclusions were presented to the president-elect’s transition team. The document is the product of a forum involving specialists held in February at the Mexico City campus of the Tecnológico de Monterrey.
Experts weighed in on how to break the barriers that limit the freedom to communication in our society and stressed the need for a long-term plan to expand the scope of digital technologies and the development of infrastructure in order to stimulate connectivity and the free exchange of ideas.
The forum emphasized two issues of considerable importance in Mexico, namely, security for those who practice journalism and freedom of expression during the election campaigns.
In relation to the first point, Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries for journalists and needs to take effective action to reduce the threats and attacks aimed at silencing voices.
Another important restriction on the freedom to communicate is the electoral reform of 2007, which strictly limits citizens’ participation in the political process. Individuals cannot acquire air or television time in the electronic media to express their political beliefs and therefore the right to express points of view on radio and television is the exclusive domain of the political parties and their candidates. Censorship is an attractive temptation for those who want to maintain their control over society as can be seen today in Ecuador, Venezuela, North Korea, and Cuba.
Communication by nature requires not only freedom but also equal access. For example, in Mexico, the authorities have allowed the dominant telecommunications carrier to maintain its control over the market for fixed and mobile telephony through illegitimate means, such as the application of discriminatory interconnection fees, whose final cost are paid by the consumer.
Today connectivity is acquiring greater importance in our lives. We are connected through devices and applications with family and friends, to close business deals, and even to express our political preferences. Connectivity is key and its essence lies in the freedom to communicate our ideas respectfully and safely.
The report expands the debate on all these issues that concern us as companies, institutions, and individuals. The study concludes by advancing five recommendations to enhance connectivity and freedoms:
- Promote a national consensus and a plan for the creation of a digital society. Its goal should be broadband connectivity for all Mexicans, especially those in rural and hard to reach areas.
- Support digital infrastructure. Regulate the market by promoting competition and opposing discrimination, focus investment through well-designed subsidies, a policy such as the Colombian government is developing and about which I will share my views in the future.
- Encourage a culture of innovation. Entrepreneurial creativity should be promoted. New companies create new knowledge, jobs and investment.
- Adapt an ecosystem for investments in innovation. It should be easy to invest in innovative projects to develop small businesses. Great ideas sometimes require a boost and companies such as Google and Amazon are an example of this.
- Develop an adequate environment for freedom and connectivity. This involves preserving freedom of expression and avoiding censorship at all costs.
It is illogical when politicians restrict freedom in the name of freedom. History shows that efforts to censor and control information have never been successful. The first step to defend freedom lies in identifying the conditions that constrain it. I recommend the report as an interesting reflection on this key issue