St Vincent Government Passes Cyber Crime Legislation

Written By Ernesto Cooke

The Cyber Crime Bill 2016 was passed in the parliament of St Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday 12th August 2016.

The seven Opposition lawmakers voted against the bill which they say would impede on the fundamental rights and freedoms of Vincentians.

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The bill was hotly debated in select committee meetings, on various talk shows, in newspapers and online media.

The cybercrime bill would allow prison sentences of up to two years for online defamation.

Local rights organizations and international press groups had expressed concern the measure could stifle free speech and journalism in the Caribbean nation of just over 100,000 inhabitants.

St. Vincent already has similar penalties for print and broadcast media, but those laws are rarely enforced, officials say.

Gonsalves speaking in parliament Thursday morning said he is satisfied that the bill not only passes constitutional standards, but it is also a sound law for the people.

The Prime Minister noted that a number of adjusments were made to the bill long before any international organization wrote to his Government.

Adjustments to the bill included the removal of clause 23 which provided for wire- tapping.

Adjustments were also made to clause 7 which criminalizes illegal access to data.

Gonsalves said the section was adjusted to give way for public interest defense, the changes now offers protection to whistleblowers.

“So that if someone gets some information that a public official, a politician or whatsoever is corrupt, they get data on it, you obtain it, this information, when you publish it, they can’t come at you because you will have what is called a public interest defence, which did not exist before when the bill was originally drafted and the way in which some people have passed it in the region,”

There is however no protection in clause 7 for persons who wants to expose anyone’s health information or matters involving the nation’s security.

The legislation also contains offences related to the critical infrastructure for the computer, identity-related crimes, computer-related forgery, computer-related fraud, child pornography, violation of privacy, sexual harassment by electronic communication, cyber-bullying of children and vulnerable people.

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