The Grenada government Tuesday said it had taken note of “some concerns” being raised by the public regarding the recently passed Electronic Crime Bill that provides for criminal charges to be brought against anyone sending offensive messages over the internet.
In a statement, the Keith Mitchell government, which controls all 15 seats in the Parliament, said 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.
“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,” it said.
A former candidate of the National Democratic Congress (UNC), who unsuccessfully contested the last general election, says he plans to stage a one-man protest against the recently passed legislation.
“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 Randall Robinson.
“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.
The government said contrary to media reports “the current proposal before the parliament is in no way law.
“It is subject to an ongoing debate in the House of Representatives and subsequently the Senate.Given the ongoing debate, it is very likely that what passes finally into law will have adjustments, given both the concerns and government’s unambiguous commitment.”
The statement said that Prime Minister 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”.
The statement quoted an official of the Prime Minister’s Office as calling on the Grenada Media Workers Association to discuss the clause that has raised some eyebrows.
“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 Electronic Crimes Bill, which was passed on Friday, also makes it an offence to send offensive messages electronically via the various social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter; engage in electronic identity theft; conduct and participate in the distribution of child pornography as well as engage in prank calls to the law enforcement.
The bill also provides for measures against anyone participating in electronic stalking; involved or be responsible for spoof and spam emails and other electronic formats; engage in electronic fraud and forgery; participate in electronic terrorism and to violate another person’s privacy.
The bill provides for fines ranging from EC$5, 000 to EC$300,000 (One EC dollar = US$0.37 cents) and jail terms from six months to 20 years and according to Information Communications and Telecommunications Minister Alvin Dabreo it is intended to deter persons from engaging in mischief to another or a country.
Legal Affairs Minister Elvin Nimrod said that Grenada has finally decided to use technology to fight technology.
“We must have laws in place to protect society especially those who are vulnerable to modern technology,” Nimrod said, adding that electronic defamation occurs when people using the various social media sites, insist on saying hurtful things about others.
“Now the passage of the Electronic Crimes Bill a person will be (able) to take that evidence of the posting and use it as evidence in the court. People have to act responsible to others,” he said.
The bill also provides for fines as much as EC$300,000 on anyone found guilty of using the internet to promote child pornography.