Gonsalves Responds To Reporters Without Borders Letter

Written By Ernesto Cooke

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves have responded to a letter sent to him from RSF or Reporters without Borders, in which they urged a revision of the Cyber Crime Bill.

In their letter, RSF pointed to clause 16 “we regard some of the clauses in this bill extremely damaging to the free flow of news and information and to public debate.

For example, Section 16 (2) of Part II incorporates criminal libel, which is already a criminal offence in Section 274 of the criminal code.

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.” Offenders can be sentenced to up to 5 years’ imprisonment and/or pay a fine of 200,000 East Caribbean dollars.

Gonsalves in responding praise the organization for their work concerning free press and independent journalism.

The Prime Minister, however, pointed back to a reference from the letter of July 27th ,stating that he is fortified by the organization balance and responsibility in their affirmation on the Cyber Crime Bill that:

“We do not dispute the principle of this law or some of its provisions. 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, cyber bullying or, even more serious, child pornography.”

Gonsalves in his letter to RSF continued by saying “I take your listing of “crimes and offences “which are “perfectly legitimate to sanction “as not exclusive, but as indicative examples.

Full text of the letter from PM Gonsalves to Mrs. Delphine Halgand US Director RSF download here.

The RSF at the latter part of 2015 said most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean experienced a decrease in media freedom from 2014 to 2015.

The Paris-based freedom of expression and journalist advocacy nonprofit organization released the 2016 World Press Freedom Index on April 20.

RSF noted that “media freedom declined in the Americas in 2015 because of mounting political tension in many countries fuelled by the economic recession, uncertainty about the future and weakening solidarity between communities.”

The following graph shows St Vincent and the Grenadines position regarding Freedom of the Media as of April 2016.

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In its 2016 report, RSF said Journalism is not a prestige profession in the countries that are members of the Organization of East Caribbean States.

Journalists get little training and often abandon media work because it is so badly paid.

The report went on to say that many media outlets are under the direct influence of politicians, especially during elections, because officials can withdraw state advertising at any time, depriving them of income they depend on.

The authorities are also monitoring social networks more and more closely, which encourages a degree of self-censorship the RSF stated.