TEDIC could be censored for publishing about gender-based violence

We want to warn of efforts to censor a post that we published recently, where we brought up cases of gender-based violence on the Internet in Paraguay. The post included screenshots of a conversation on Facebook Messenger where a group of men chat about sexually abusing a journalist to “correct“ her sexual orientation. The conversation became public because the journalist had access  and decided to publish it on her Twitter account.

According to the journalist‘s recount, someone in the conversation included her without her consent. TEDIC used this case as an example of the type of violent language against women and LGBTQI minorities that fosters rape culture. Afterwards, one of the individuals that appears on the conversation  filed a lawsuit against the journalist and TEDIC. He argues that our post damages his honor and reputation, while also claiming that our publication violates his privacy.

For us, the lawsuit itself is an affront to the fight against gender-based violence of women and minorities in Paraguay and around the world.  If the lawsuit succeeds and the judge accedes to the petition of  the complainant – which is to take down our content – it would leave a terrible precedent. It could mean that in the future, human rights organizations, media outlets or anyone who serves as a platform of awareness and denunciation could be the subject of censorship by individuals who, at a minimum, feel threatened to lose their impunity to use violence.

Details of the case

Below we share a short summary of the case: 

  • February 10th: A journalist published a group chat where several men talk about sexually abusing her to “correct“ her sexual orientation. She had access to it because because someone included her in the conversation. She took screenshots and posted them on her Twitter account. The case was a viral topic of conversation on social media for a  couple of days.
  • February 14th: We published a report about the reasons we have to join the International Women‘s Strike on March 8th. Among some the reasons, we put forward the issue of gender-based violence on the Internet. We used the screenshots of the group chat as an example of the type of language that fosters rape culture.
  • February 15th: The journalist presented her evidence to the Public Ministry. Prosecutors rejected it, saying that the content of the chat group was part of a joke.
  • February 24th: One of the men that appear in the chat group filed a lawsuit against the journalist and TEDIC, arguing that we damaged his honor and reputation, while claiming also that we violated his right to privacy.

As an organization, we keep a firm stance on this issue. Violence against women on the Internet and everywhere else must be identified and repudiated without hesitations. We consider that there has been no harm done to the claimant because we did not expose his legal name. We limited ourselves to using the screenshots that the journalist herself made available on her Twitter account.  

Also, we have argued our case based on principles of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression. For example, the 10th principle of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression establishes that “privacy laws may not inhibit or limit the investigation and dissemination of information that is in the public interest“.

The case that we used as an example of gender-based violence in our post represents a threat to the physical integrity of a journalist. Hence, the content that we published is in the public interest. Also, the violence displayed in the group chat is not isolated. According to the World Wide Web Foundation, this is a type of violence that bloggers, journalists and activists, who are more active on the Internet, are particularly vulnerable to. They are more exposed to suffering aggressions in the form of sexist comments, insults and threats, leading to self-censorship.

The lawsuit itself is another affront to women who fight for equal rights. Its intent is to silence resistance, limit public debate through the request for censorship and prevent that other women speak up against violence.

Violence against women, in any form, cannot be subject to legal protection. What ought to be protected are human rights, such as the right to life,  freedom and security of all, something that we hope that authorities will guarantee in this case.