… Cabinet sub-committee continues review
Government is pressing ahead with the controversial Cybercrime Bill 2016 at the next sitting of the National Assembly, according to Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.
Williams had taken the Bill back to Cabinet for consideration following a wave of public criticisms about the inclusion of a sedition clause that many social activists warned will silence persons who speak out against the Government.
According to Williams, a sub-committee of Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo has been reviewing the clauses of the Bill.
Asked if there has been a decision taken on the sedition clause, Williams said that Cabinet will be finalizing decisions at its next meeting. Cabinet usually meets on Tuesdays.
Local community watchdog, Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. (TIGI), had called for the scrapping of the sedition clause in the Cybercrime Bill.
The overall thrust of the Bill is to make illegal, certain activities using a computer and over the internet, such as child pornography, cyber bullying, theft of data, and revenge porn among others.
However, there are concerns about aspects of the Bill. The most contentious is Section 18 (1) (a) of the Bill which indicates that a person commits the offence of sedition if he brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in Guyana.
According to Section 18 (1) of the Bill which is before the National Assembly, a person can commit the offence whether in or out of Guyana by intentionally publishing, transmitting or circulating by use of a computer system or any other means, a statement or words, either spoken or written, a text, video, image, sign, visible representation, or other thing.
The penalty ranges from four months in prison to a life sentence where death occurs.
Dr. Thomas noted that the inclusion of the clause takes Guyana back to ‘the dark days’ when some persons fled Guyana out of fear of retribution for speaking out against the Government.
President of TIGI, Dr. Troy Thomas, told Kaieteur News that it is surprising that the clause has survived a review of a Special Select Committee of the National Assembly that included members of the coalition Government and the Opposition, People’s Progressive party (PPP).
Government Members on the committee included Basil Williams, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, who tabled the Bill; Khemraj Ramjattan, Minister of Public Security; Nicolette Henry, Minister of Education; Michael Carrington and Audwin Rutherford.
The opposition members on the committee were Gail Teixeira, Chief Whip; Clement Rohee; Anil Nandlall and Gillian Persaud.
Following the initial public outcry in the wake of the release of the committee report, members of the opposition started to complain that the sedition clause is oppressive.
Nandlall has labelled the sedition clause a colossal attack on freedom of speech and the press.
The clause was not part of the 2015 version of the draft Bill, which was circulated by Government for stakeholder input. The clause was subsequently inserted in the 2016 Bill, which is now before the National Assembly.
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