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The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]

According to a publication in Searchlight newspaper of Aug. 9, 2016 with amendments to the Cybercrimes Bill 2016, we see that there are still problems of anti-freedom of expression clauses in the bill.

  1. There is now an offence called libel by electronic communication. This is akin to the criminal libel provision on our books (274) and is internationally recognised as damaging to freedom of expression by international and regional organisations globally. It should be decriminalised and not find its way in our cybercrime legislation. (Reporters Without Borders, International Press Institute, Centre for Law and Democracy, Association of Caribbean Media Workers, Committee on Protection of Journalists, European Court of Human Rights, OAS rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression, Article 19 Global campaign for freedom of expression under the UN Human Rights Committee and International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (to which SVG is a state party since 1981). Also, the passage of online criminal libel in a harassment section of Grenada’s Electronic Crimes Act 2013 was repealed in the Electronic Crimes amendment Act 2014. It was their section 6!
  1. Sexual harassment by electronic communication-: This is an entirely new clause recommended by the Minister of Information to the select committee. It is a type of violation of privacy clause. In fact, if you look at clause 14, which deals with Violation of Privacy, you will see an inherent problem in its draft where, one must “capture”, “publish” or “transmit” the image of a “private area” of the person without their consent. It does not require that you publish the person’s identification (like face, etc.). But this sexual harassment clause requires this personal identification information, which includes several things, such as the “voice print” of the person. Now, violation of Privacy is a tort dealt with in civil law but is here now presented as a criminal offence. While this clause will deal with revenge porn matters (although in a criminal sense), it lacks a public interest defence clause, which is necessary for appropriate cases. Example: What if someone publishes the sexually explicit image of a politician or a religious leader in a crime (rape, etc.) with a minor. In so doing, he or she smartly hides the identity of the minor/victim but exposes the identity of the perpetrator to help in crime solving and to expose the corruption of the perpetrator. This clause would criminalise this public interest exposure. Furthermore, Vincentians must ask themselves, what would they prefer? To go to civil court and get financial compensation for the non-consensual exposures of their sexually explicit photos/videos or to have the one who violated their privacy pay a fine to the state or go to jail or both? Regardless, it needs a public interest defence clause as indicated above or such “expression” as it relates to exposure of corruption will be damaged.
  2. Cyberbullying is now a separate offence split into two: A. Cyber-bullying of a person other than a child or vulnerable and B. Cyber-bullying of a child and a vulnerable. The penalties for the cyber-bullying of a child or vulnerable have been raised to $150,000 or 3 years in prison or both at summary conviction and $250,000 or 5 years or both at conviction on indictment. This is higher than for the cyber-bullying of an adult who is not a vulnerable. Of course, this means that in a case of a child who is convicted of cyber-bullying another child, he or she, on the face of it, already faces a greater maximum penalty than an adult cyber-bullying an adult. This will criminalise children, the youth and criminalise the truth. Furthermore, the same vague, subjective and legally uncertain words are used to define cyber-bullying such as causing a person “to feel frightened”, “humiliated”, “distressed” and or causing “harm to the health or reputation” of the person. “Vague statutes violate due process because they fail to provide fair notice of what conduct is prohibited; they set an “unascertainable standard.” Coates v. City of Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 614 (1971) And “A statute is vague, and therefore facially invalid, if persons of “common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning.” (Quoting Connally v. Gen. Constr. Co., 269 U.S. 385, 391 (1926). In the absence of clarity, these vague terms open room for arbitrary interpretation by law enforcement and prosecutorial and judicial officers.

To be continued…

Anesia O. Baptiste

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The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

3 replies on “Revised Cybercrime Bill still impinges on freedom of expression (Pt 1)”

  1. Jeannine James says:

    One of my concerns is about the definition of “public interest”. The concern is made deeper when one considers the caliber of the crew that now sits atop the country. I visions of untold resources which the country could ill-afford being expended to settle the question of public interest. It is too subjective. What is that? When will the tricksterism come to end or will it?

    1. At the moment the world is cursed with more than its share of corrupt, power-mad politicians. The USA is even worse than SVG. If you think Obama is bad, Hillary is even far worse than Bush! At least in SVG the politicians do not seem to be killing people, they just get you, or your spouse fired from their job, or they get Customs after you. Hillary and Bill have killed so many. google the Clinton’s dead body list. Even in the last days, John Ashe and Seth Rich were eliminated.
      Certainly the bill is for Gonsalves to seize more power. When Ralph says “rubbish” you can laugh your head off. His track record of telling the truth is about 25% and 75% for telling lies. The more important something is the more he lies. In this case he is 100% lying to us!

  2. Thanks Anesia, for keeping Vincentians informed about this cybercrime bill. There are many people supporting Ralph who don’t know their children are at risk because of these new laws. Many of these people would not be privy to your explanation, because they can’t or don’t read the news media available in SVG. There are also many who are not Internet savvy. How can all Vincentians become aware of these new laws, which can and will affect their lives irrespective of party affiliation?
    I am suggesting that Nice Radio gives you a spot to explain to the public the effect of these new laws on their lives. Nice Radio may have a Face book page or even an email id that can accept questions, where people in the Diaspora can get involved in the discussion. Presently many callers are repeaters on call-in shows and this reduces the number of participants to the show. Many of these people hog the show and take-up too much time with their explanations: This leave very little time for other callers from SVG and the Diaspora. It’s much easier to read a comment or a question from an email or Face book, and have an explanation or answer given to those questions or comments. Many more people will get involved because they will have an opportunity to be heard, or have their questions answered.
    I am also suggesting that the NDP work with you for the benefit of Vincentians to get this information out. This is no time for personal egos to cloud this serious episode. This is something that needs immediate attention. If NDP takes my suggestion of going all over the island to explain the cybercrime bill in its present form and how it will and can affect Vincentians lives, you should be on that train ride. I believe Linton should also be there because I like the way he handles people on call-in shows.

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