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Mexico: Senate Committees Approve Draft Legislation to Protect Children

(Oct. 6, 2014) Draft legislation to enhance legal protections of children by amending the General Law of the Rights of Children and Adolescents was approved unanimously on September 25, 2014, by six committees of the Federal Senate. The legislation was drafted by the Mexican Executive Branch under President Enrique Peña Nieto, but it was significantly modified in committee. (Rivelino Rueda, Aprueban en Comisiones del Senado Ley para Menores, EL FINANCIERO (Sept. 25, 2014)  [by subscription].)

Key Provisions of the Proposed Legislation

Among the committees’ modifications of the government’s proposal is the insertion of a provision that would allow the government to impose a fine of up to MXN4 million (about US$297,000) against mass communications companies for transmitting content that endangers children, violates their privacy, or disseminates unauthorized interviews. (Id.) In addition, the draft legislation provides for fines of up to MXN100,500 (about US$7,450) against public officials, institutions, and social welfare agencies that fail to inform the authorities about the commission of crimes against children. The same fine applies to those who could have prevented a rape but did not get involved. (Id.)

The draft legislation also penalizes bullying with economic sanctions. “The staff of schools that encourage, tolerate, or do not prevent harassment, abuse, and violence against children” will be penalized with fines of more than MXN 2million, which may be doubled for repeat offenders. (Id.)

Those who commit cybercrimes will have their user accounts suspended to avoid the dissemination of information, images and sounds, or data that contravene the interests of children. (Alberto Morales & Elena Michel, Multas a medios en Ley de Niñez, Hasta de 4 MDP, EL UNIVERSAL (Sept. 25, 2014).)

The Executive Branch’s draft legislation included criminal sanctions of two to four years of prison for the editor or employee of a mass communications firm that publishes, disseminates, or transmits a minor’s name, image, voice, or other information without his or her consent. The Senate committees replaced these criminal sanctions with monetary sanctions of MXN471,030 for each day that the images or data are maintained or disseminated. The fines would apply even if the media organizations have modified or not specified the individual identities of the minors whose images, voices, or other data are used. (Id.)

These penalties would be applied under the Federal Telecommunication and Broadcast Act (Ley Federal de Telecomunicaciones y Radiodifusión); the legislation would be implemented by the relevant authorities, including the Secretariat of Communication and Transportation, the Secretariat of Interior, and the Federal Institute of Telecommunications. (Id.)

If enacted, the amending law will enter into force 180 days after the legislation is published in Diario Oficial de la Federación (the official federal gazette). (Id.)

Reaction to the Draft Legislation and Future Steps

Ernesto Villanueva, an academician of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, considered the committees’ change of criminal sanctions to financial penalties in the legislation to be a positive development, but he suggested that the media and experts in the subject be consulted as the legislation develops. (Id.)

The committees that approved the draft legislation were the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee for Assistance to Vulnerable Groups, the Committee on Human Rights, the Committee on Education, the Committee for Gender Equality, and the Committee of Legislation Studies. The draft will now follow the legislative process, including consideration by both houses of the legislature. (Rueda, supra.)