If blocking is approved, internet industry representatives will submit a Constitutional complaint
Prague, 1 October 2015 - The Association for Internet Progress (SPIR), which includes a broad spectrum of important players in the Czech internet economy, from content providers to telecommunications companies, is expressing its fundamental disagreement with the blockage of access to websites being implemented by the draft Gambling Act being debated by the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. If the Act is passed in its current form, SPIR is prepared to initiate a motion that the Constitutional Court repeal problematic provisions due to their conflict with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.
SPIR fully supports efforts to implement effective regulation of the lottery and games of chance sector. However, we consider it unacceptable to implement measures that are inadequate for this purpose as well as in our opinion also unconstitutional, and that will represent unprecedented interference with internet freedom, based on a mere decision of a state administration authority. § 82 of the draft Act gives the Ministry of Finance unlimited authority to block access to any website that in the ministry’s opinion features an unauthorized internet game, thus shutting down the entire website, including parts that have nothing in common with internet gambling. The area of legislation dealing with such a serious approach lacks both its closer specification as well as any related legislation, and leaves decision-making regarding fundamental interference in internet media as well as other websites to the discretion of one sole government bureau.
The ministry is thereby usurping the right to censor internet content, and to proceed in a destructive manner against any internet subject – for the interpretation of what is an unauthorized game is once again only up to the ministry without any oversight. Any eventual court review and court verdict will in a number of cases change nothing on the fact that a website blocked for an extended period of time will in the meantime have gone under.
“The fight against illegal gambling is necessary, but it cannot justify an unprecedented threat to the internet environment,” says chairman of SPIR’s Executive Board Ján Simkanič. “The same objectives can be achieved using other effective means, which is why usurpation of this power by one authority raises serious doubts regarding the true objectives of this measure. If needed, we are prepared to defend the freedom of the internet all the way to the Constitutional Court.”