A British journalist has been deported from Argentina by the government ahead of the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference. Sally Burch, involved with JustNet Coalition, has been actively working on WTO, digital monopolies, Internet freedom, and autonomous weapons. The deportation move came after her name was included in the 63 people list who are prohibited from attending the WTO conference being held in Buenos Aires from 10-13 December.
Citing the ‘security concerns’ Argentinian government justified the blocking the entry of formerly accredited journalists and NGO officials. Sally, who lives in Ecuador was among 63 people who were deported including the Norwegian activist Petter Titland, head of the NGO Attac Norg.
Argentina’s foreign ministry said in a statement:
“The security team of the ministerial conference organisation alerted the WTO of the existence of some attendees, registered before that organisation in the name of some NGOs, who had made explicit calls for manifestations of violence through social media, expressing the intent to generate schemes of intimidation and chaos.”
The human rights organisations have criticised the deportation move by the Argentinian government. “We don’t understand this decision which exposes Argentina before the international community,” said Mariela Belski, executive director of Amnesty International Argentina.
The ministerial conference will be discussing the proposal for e-commerce, which activists argue will only serve the vested interests of big transnational internet corporations. The EU along with some 50 countries are making a strong push for adopting a new mandate for the e-commerce over the current 1998 work programme. Prof. Biswajit Dhar, an expert on WTO, in an interview, said that the E-commerce is an attempt to liberalise trade completely.
Sally, in a statement, which Newsclick is publishing in full, said:
I have participated in many UN meetings over the years, either as a journalist or communication rights activist, always with a constructive perspective. I have never expressed disruptive attitudes, much less advocated violence. Therefore, the only explanation I can find for my deportation from Argentina is that the government finds my opinions and analysis “disruptive” (to use the term employed by a member of the foreign ministry) of its neoliberal and pro-corporate agenda. Some of these ideas might include:
1. That issues of grave importance for humanity, with implications for human rights, development, freedom of expression or the environment, should not be decided behind closed doors, between big governments and big corporations, with no participation of civil society nor democratic process, such as often occurs in the WTO.
2. That the proposals tabled for e-commerce negotiations in the WTO serve the interests of the big transnational internet corporations and not those of the people or of developing countries.
3. That the proposals for “free flow of data” mean that everyone’s personal data become a commodity for the big corporations to exploit, with no personal benefit and no privacy rights.
4. That the present model of the Internet and artificial intelligence, concentrated in the hands of big corporations, runs contrary to the public interest and presents serious threats to democracy. The e-commerce negotiations, as presented, would tend to strengthen this model.
In any case, if it is true that this is the reason, it would be a very serious matter to exclude participation on the basis of opinions, and all the more serious for the WTO if they admit that.