Mexican president defends freedom of speech in response to social media bill

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends the 108th anniversary of the March of Loyalty, in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday there should be no media censorship in response to a bill from a lawmaker from his party that seeks to regulate social networks.

Drafted by Ricardo Monreal, the influential Senate leader of the ruling National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), the bill would require social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to request authorization from the telecommunications regulator to continue operating.

It would also give the regulator oversight in establishing a framework for suspension and elimination of social media accounts, which the bill says is an attempt to protect freedom of speech.

It is unclear how likely it is the bill, which is still in draft form, will eventually become law but it has already faced opposition from a local industry group who said on Tuesday that such changes in regulations would create an unjustified trade barrier.

When asked about the bill at a regular morning news conference, Lopez Obrador said he was not in favor of regulating the media but that lawmakers had a right to present initiatives, which should then be subject to discussion. He did not explicitly say whether he was in favor of the bill.

"There should be no censorship," he said. "So you have attacks, you have bots in social networks, sure. But everyone has the right to express themselves."

Lopez Obrador frequently pillories critical media in his news conferences, and has condemned social media companies for throwing former U.S. President Donald Trump off their platforms after hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol last month.

But he has also expressed his admiration for what he refers to as the "blessed social networks." A number of Mexican journalists active on social media are passionate backers of the president and supportive of him at his morning conferences.

(Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)