After failed promises to amend the controversial Electronic Crime Bill that threatens the freedom of the press and freedom of expression, the Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s has once again given assurances that it would table in Parliament amendments to the Bill later this month.
Minster of Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod told local reporters last week Tuesday at the weekly post-Cabinet briefing that the one-year old administration is committed to amending Section Six of the Bill that seeks to provide for the prevention and punishment of electronic crimes.
Nimrod re-iterated that Prime Minister Mitchell has given his commitment to amend the Bill to reflect the concerns of the media
“In the next Parliament, hopefully by the end of this month, you would see that an amendment (is) coming of course to amend specially Section Six which poses all these concerns to the press”, he told the press briefing.
The controversial Section Six of the legislation, which deals with the sending of offensive messages through communication services, is of utmost concern for social network users.
It states, “A person shall not knowingly or without lawful excuse of justification send by means of an electronic system or an electronic device – information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character; information which he or she knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such electronic system or a electronic device; or electronic mail or an electronic message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages.”
A person found guilty of sending offensive message through communication services and who knowingly publishes electronic mail that is grossly offensive or menacing that is false, annoying or unconvincing can be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $100,000.00 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year or to both.
Nimrod said that the promise to amend the legislation is a reflection of the governing New National Party’s policy to listen and take onboard the issues that concern the entire nation.
The response from government comes on the heels of an article published by the International Press Institute (IPI) critical of Mitchell’s
broken promise to amend the legislation.
The article was published under the headline, “Grenada quietly allowed controversial Bill to become law”.
It said “the Keith Mitchell government had in September last year given an undertaking to deal with concerns about the Electronic Crimes Bill, despite the assurances, no changes were made and instead, on the same day that Prime Minister Mitchell promised to reform the bill, Governor-General Cécile La Grenade granted it royal assent”.
Since the news of the passage of the Crime Bill during the sitting of the House of Representatives last year, the local, regional and international media have taken a keen interest in the legislation calling on the Mitchell regime to withdraw the controversial Section Six.
The Crime Bill, 2013, provides for the prevention and punishment of electronic crimes and for related matters was brought to Parliament two weeks after the publishing of phonographic materials involving a school student via facebook, which seeks to provide for the prevention and punishment of electronic crimes and related matters.
The Bill was tabled by Minister Nimrod who said he believes the time has come for people to take responsibility for their actions who engage in mischievous behaviours against innocent people online.
“We must have laws in place to protect society, especially those who are vulnerable to modern technology … we have a situation where as a state, we have problems when some use the technology to engage in mischief, and we have to put structures in place to ensure that persons and in some cases companies’ characters are not tarnished,” he said.
The Electronic Crime Bill is one in a series of legislations put forward by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in support of the EGRIP Programme. The legislation came into law in 2013.