Two social media users in Mexico had wrongly reported an armed attack on a local school in Veracruz. This report that they spread on Twitter, understandably, created a lot of panic. The rumours that were spread were of gunmen attacking the school and kidnapping children. The parents of children in the school created enough panic in their rush to get their children to have traffic accidents and emergency phone lines jammed. The two people spreading the rumours were a private school teacher and a radio presenter and are facing 30 years in prison for charges under terrorism law. Prosecutors had claimed that one of the tweets that the defendants had tweeted was, “My sister-in-law just called me all upset, they just kidnapped five children from the school.” The defendants, however, pleaded that they were only repeating information that they had seen elsewhere on the Internet.
Tweeters face prison but could get off on freedom of speech
The prison term that the defendants received, however, according to their attorneys, violates two articles of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Mexico signed. The pair said in court documents, “You cannot regard us as terrorists or saboteurs,” explaining that they were exercising their right to free speech and adding that they were just relaying information from other sources. Article 19 of the charter states “everyone shall have the right to … seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Fidel Ordonez, an attorney for the accused, said that international pressure should help the pair get released in the next few weeks.
What do you think? Twitter terrorism or just exercising their right to freedom of speech? And should the pair face 3 years in prison?