Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 26th 2014 Contents A11
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The Vienna-based International Press Institute
(IPI) has jumped into the local debate over the
Cyber Crime Bill piloted last month by National
Security Minister Gary Griffith.
The IPI reminded the T&T government that
"while we welcomed their efforts to partially
decriminalise defamation earlier this year, we are
deeply concerned about the steps to introduce
legislation that may infringe on the rights of jour-
nalists and other civil groups in the twin-island
It is also asking Parliament to give the local
media more time to highlight their concerns with
parts of the bill which, it said, if passed would
affect their ability to carry out their work.
Griffith, in piloting the bill, said it would make
it a crime for anyone to engage in the unauthorised
transmission or sharing of electronic mails.
Clause 21 is the centre of concern for members
of the media and the Opposition.
It states anyone who damages the reputation
of another person, or subjects another person to
public ridicule, contempt, hatred or embarrass-
ment, commits an offence and faces fines of
$100,000 and/or up to three years in jail.
The IPI, which had praised the Government for
partially decriminalising defamation last February,
said the Cyber Crime Bill now criminalises defama-
tion and is in breach of international standards.
"We are extremely concerned that the wide net
cast by this bill, the lack of a public-interest-
defence clause and the inclusion of some prob-
lematic provisions would lead not only to the
criminalisation of legitimate journalistic activity
but also disregard fundamental journalistic rights
and principles," said Alison Bethel McKenzie, IPI s
She said Clause 23, which imposes liabilities on
the director, manager or secretary of a media com-
pany, is also troubling.
"It would necessarily lead to interference in the
editorial process by media owners and publishers
in breach of the fundamental journalistic principle
of editorial independence," she added.
Part IV of the bill is also worrying, the IPI said.
Barbara Trionfi, IPI s press freedom manager,
said: "It includes much needed provisions freeing
internet service providers from liabilities related
to information transmitted through Web sites they
host but it also authorises the courts to order dis-
closure of information.
"Under certain circumstances, this could force
journalists to reveal their sources in breach of their
legal right and professional ethical duty to sources
The IPI said Griffith had approached a few
members of the media for their views on the bill
just before the recent long weekend and gave them
until June 24 to air them.
The IPI said: "That was not enough time. A
process of public consultation before a bill is intro-
duced to Parliament is an important step in any
"This allows stakeholders and groups that will
be affected by the new legislation to provide input
and advice and eventually leads to greater trans-
parency and accountability in the law-making
"Two working days is not an acceptable time
frame for such a consultation, as it does not leave
sufficient time for relevant stakeholders to develop
an informed opinion and provide relevant feedback
on complex draft legislation."
The IPI said one of the major concerns with
the bill was that it entirely lacked a clear public-
"Journalists must be able to collect and dis-
seminate information about issues of public con-
cern. The lack of a public interest clause effectively
limits many forms of investigative journalism," it
The T&T Publishers and Broadcasters Associ-
ation (TTPBA) has called on Government to redraft
and revise the bill, saying it could seriously affect
The TTPBA appealed to the Government to
begin a round of consultation and work with stake-
Opposition MP Terence Deyalsingh said recently
the proposed legislation directly targeted the media.
Griffith said the police Cybercrime Unit had
witnessed an increase in the number of cyber inci-
dents, including online bullying, attempted domain
hijacking, Web site hacking and defacement.
He said muzzling the media was not the bill s
Efforts to reach Media Association president
Curtis Williams and vice-president Khamal
Georges yesterday were unsuccessful.
IPI to Govt on Cyber Crime Bill:
Media needs time
to tell of concerns
Police officers remove a homeless man from the sidewalk after he was found
lying too close to a Republic Bank ATM on Harris Promenade, San Fernando,
yesterday. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA
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