Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. (Photo: Lance Neverson/Facebook)

WASHINGTON (CMC) — The global media watchdog group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Wednesday said it had written St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves expressing some concerns over the Cybercrime Bill now being debated in the nation’s Parliament.

The regional media umbrella group, the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers says it is also examining the legislation.

In the letter, a copy of which was also sent to the Minister of Information, Camillo Gonsalves, RSF said it was calling for the revision of several clauses “that are extremely damaging to the free flow of news and information and to public debate”.

In the letter, written by Delphine Halgand, RSF’s US Director, the group noted that while it does not dispute the principle of the Cybercrime legislation “the Internet should not escape the authority of the law altogether and we believe that it is perfectly legitimate to sanction such crimes and offences as the theft of documents or data, online identity theft, cyberbullying or, even more serious, child pornography.

“However, we regard some of the clauses in this bill extremely damaging to the free flow of news and information and to public debate,” the group said making reference to Section 16 (2) of Part II which incorporates criminal libel that is already a criminal offence in section 274 of the criminal code.

It said Section 16 (3) states: “A person who, intentionally or recklessly uses a computer system to disseminate any information, statement or image; and exposes the private affairs of another person, thereby subjecting that other person to public ridicule, contempt, hatred or embarrassment, commits an offence” can be sentenced to up to five years’ imprisonment and/or pay a fine of EC$200,000 (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents).

RSF, which also describes itself as “an international organisation that defends freedom of information,” asks “under what criteria can information be considered to expose “private affairs” of another person regardless of factual accuracy, which this subsection refrains from mentioning?

“This provision could very easily constitute an obstacle to the dissemination of information of public interest. It could, for example, provide any demonstrably corrupt public figure with a strong argument for refusing to be held accountable.”

It said Clause 16 also defines cyberbullying as using “a computer system repeatedly or continuously to convey information which causes fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other harm to another person; or detriment to another person’s health, emotional well-being, self-esteem or reputation.”

“This language remains subjective and could be broadly interpreted in a manner that negatively impacts the free flow of information.

“We are also concerned about the range of the bill’s applicability. Clause 31 of Part III states that “an act [constituting an offence] is carried out in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines if the effect of the act, or the damage resulting from the act, occurs within Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.”

RSF said “here again, the lack of precision about the nature of the effect to which this clause refers could result in significant obstacles to freedom of information.

“The danger posed by these provisions is, in our view, all the greater because the law gives the police and judicial authorities a great deal of scope to access the personal data of someone who is being investigated.”

The international group said furthermore, it considers criminal defamation to have a chilling effect on freedom of the press and freedom of expression and has repeatedly urged countries to decriminalize this offense.

“For all these reasons, we urge you not to pass this bill into law in its present form and to amend the most sensitive clauses. We also urge you to amend the criminal code in order to de-criminalise defamation,” RSF added.

12 replies on “Reporters Without Borders writes PM Gonsalves about Cybercrime Bill”

    1. Luther Bonadie says:

      Peter. you Guys, Gals, or aliens never sees to amaze me.

      No wonder they call you people small Island people with small minds.

      You stupid folks like that timid ” x- man ” with nothing to add but who sits on the side lines pointing there bias, and unimaginative fingers to whom is trying.

      What happen, you just woke this morning and realize this is a modern information epoch, we are living.

      You backward Vincentian, cant get it until you been slapped with the truth, and even then you’ll still not get it, for a bias fool will lose tomorrow by looking back for yesterday.

      1. insults , insults , and more insults, but no substance. You are an example of how our government is intellectually bankrupt.

    1. Luther Bonadie says:

      Kenton,

      Why you not mention that it’s a Vincentian woman, who is the one that contacted the RSF in the first place.

      Kenton you got to learn of what goes on in this world, and not in your bias head.

  1. Watching Hard says:

    Its good that international bodies such as RSF are raising the alarm but what happen to our local NGOs and civil society? Cat got their tongue? It kinda reminds me of the analogy with the crabs in the pot of water. The water heating so slowly that they are dead before they could realise that they were being boiled alive. That is civil society in SVG. The powers that be are slowly eroding our liberties but they don’t seem to realise it. They need to wake up.

    1. I will tell you why they are not speaking out: They are scared! You may have noticed that the government is not good at taking criticism. Soooo many have had their lives ruined by a thin-skinned man because they dared to criticize him.

  2. Brown Boy USA says:

    If the world is watching and seeing that party of this cyber bill legalization is detrimental to freedom of speech then why isn’t the general population of SVG speaking out? What is happening to our people?

  3. Patrick Ferrari says:

    The palookas at RSF think they go make the Big Brother aspirant back off from his dystopian bill? Neeeverrrr.

    That go take a little old lady. But a little old man go do just as good.

    And then it wouldn’t be “backing down.” It will be something face-saving like “civil willingness,” or “generosity of self.” Something fancy so.

    Ralph go punish me, dread.

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