ST GEORGE’S, Grenada — The government of Grenada said it is aware of some concerns raised by the proposed new Electronics Crime Bill 2013, and its possible ability to suppress internet comment by Section 6 of the 18-page document.
The Prime Minister’s Office said in a press statement on Tuesday that it is “committed to looking at the segment to ensure that in no way free internet comment is either inhibited or by any slightest measure, threatened.”
While the government is committed to bringing modern legislation to deal with modern-day realities, it will in no way inhibit traditional old tenets that are the centre of any self-respecting democracy, the statement continued.
“Under the watch of this government, no law shall inhibit or threaten open debate in any form or fashion. That commitment of the current government is clear,” the statement said.
The current Bill before the parliament is not yet law, the government said, and it is subject to an ongoing debate in the House of Representatives and subsequently the Senate.
However, this observation is seen by some to somewhat disingenuous given the government’s total control of all the seats in the lower house and the corresponding unlikelihood of any meaningful debate in parliament itself.
However, given the ongoing public debate, the government said it is very likely that what passes finally into law will have adjustments, given both the concerns and government’s unambiguous commitment.
|Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell|
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell has asked his legislative team to review all sections of the bill to ensure that it remains consistent with his commitment of not just protecting open debate and dialogue, but to reflect the new commitment to broaden patterns of democracy that will be reflective in other upcoming legislation.
An official of the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday initiated a call to the president of the Grenada Media Workers Association to discuss the clause that has raised some eyebrows.
The official noted to the MWAG representative that government, through its own initiative, has asked for a second look at the clause of concern. The administration said it wants to work with MWAG and such bodies to ensure that whatever concerns they may have are adequately addressed.
“We are confident that at the end of the process we will have legislation that will deal with issue of cyber crime, identify theft, child pornography and electronic stalking without infringing, or undermining public debate or any matters attendant to an open, free and democratic society,” the statement concluded.
Meanwhile, a candidate who was unsuccessful in his bid to become a member of House of Representatives is promising to stage a one man protest if the government does not remove the clause in the Electronic Crime Bill which provides for people to be charged with a criminal offence for sending offensive messages electronically.
Randall Robinson, who was a candidate for the National Democratic Congress, said that he is prepared to protest the passage of the bill in its present state.
“Any attempts to limit free speech in Grenada by any Government will be met with resistance from me. I fully understand and appreciate that freedom of speech must be exercised responsibly and ought not to trample on the rights of others,” said Robinson who since learning about the legislation has used Facebook to openly express his uneasiness about the provision in the Bill which was approved by the House of Representatives last Friday.
“I appreciate that we are human and that we may go overboard from time to time and that we ought to be chastened for it, but speech, offensive or otherwise ought not to be criminalized. We already have a remedy in the Civil Courts that adequately compensates offended parties where they sue and win,” he added.
“A person should not be called or be labelled as a criminal for sending an offensive message, and who determines what is an offensive message,” Robinson said.
The new Electronic Crimes bill said that a person shall not knowingly or without lawful excuse or justification send by means of an electronic system or an electronic device:
(a) Information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character
(b) Information which he or she knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will persistently by making use of such electronic system or a electronic devices; or
(c) Electronic mail or an electronic message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages.
For the purpose of this section, the term “electronic mail” or “electronic message” means a message or information created or transmitted or received on an electronic system or electronic device including attachments in text, images, audio, video and any other electronic record which may be transmitted with the message.
A person found guilty of sending an offensive message will be charged a maximum of EC$100,000 or face three years imprisonment.