The Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG) has finally broken its silence on the controversial Electronics Crime Act which was passed by Parliament into law by the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration in Grenada.
The President of the island’s media body, Shere-Ann Noel has issued a statement urging the near one year old government in St. George’s to fulfill its promise to remove those offending clauses from the act which has attracted international attention.
Under the act, an internet user can be sent to jail for posting information considered to be offending to some persons.
Noel hinted in the release that the Mitchell government did not consult with MWAG as originally planned to take a fresh look at the bill before it became the law of the land.
According to Noel, a scheduled meeting with Attorney-General, Cajeton Hood did not take place as the government’s principal legal adviser did not show up and did not offer an excuse for his non-attendance at the session.
Following is the full text of the statement issued January 30 by Noel:
The Media Workers Association of Grenada is disheartened by the Grenada government’s decision not to remove from a draft bill, an offending clause that could severely undermine free expression, and infringe on the rights of Grenadians, especially members of our profession.
MWAG has made it abundantly clear that it will not stand for anything short of the total deletion of Clause 6 of the Electronics Crime Bill 2013, now Electronics Crime Act, and a revision of other offending clauses.
The Prime Minister via a telephone discussion with the President of the association, indicated that he had instructed the Attorney General, Cajeton Hood, to remove the clause on July 2nd, 2013 and again on September 25th, 2013, at which time Prime Minister, Dr. the Rt Hon Keith Mitchell, again stated that his administration will not go back on its word to address the issue.
The necessary amendments he stated will be addressed during the second session of the ninth Parliament, when it resumes on October 4th, which did not happen.
During the 2013 MWAG Media Awards, held on December 8th, at the Grenada Trade Center Annex, the issue was again raised by the president in her address, and Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell, promised the removal of Clause 6 of the Electronic Crimes Bill which can send someone to jail, if another person feels offended by comments or statements made electronically.
The nation’s leader said during his remarks at the award ceremony, “my own view is that if it is causing a problem, then we don’t need it”.
In the note sent to the AG via Communications consultant to the Prime Minister, Hamlet Mark, the following is what was proposed by MWAG.
Section 6 be deleted altogether, and
Section 26 — where it says “arrest without warrant by any office”, we believe consistent with the other sections above, should read “not below the rank of Inspector”, and not a case where any officer can arrest someone without a warrant in that case.
A meeting was subsequently scheduled by the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary for January 8th, at 12 Noon, between MWAG’s President, Shere-Ann Noel, 2nd Vice President, Mikey Hutchinson and the Attorney General, Cajeton Hood, at the Ministry of Tourism conference room.
However, the AG failed to show up, and to date no correspondence has been sent to the executive, explaining Mr. Hood’s absence or to reschedule the meeting.
The executive of the MWAG is urging Government to fulfill its promise and remove the controversial Clause 6 of the bill.
MWAG’s position on this matter is supported by several regional and international organizations who are strong advocates for freedom of expression, a right protected under section 10 of Grenada’s Constitution.
While we applaud the efforts to deal with other far reaching issues such as child pornography and identity theft, we will remain vigilant that no additional measures are slipped through the back door that will bring back facets of criminal libel.