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Cyber Bill to muzzle the press passes

Hon Fraser deems it in violation of the Constitution
Representative for the Third District Honourable Julian Fraser RA believes the Computer Misuse and Cyber Crime Bill, passed in the House of Assembly last night March 13, 2014, is broad in its definitions and could be misapplied to silence the media and has deemed parts of it unconstitutional. Photo: VINO
At the end of the debate the Opposition side proposed that the Bill be further considered in a select committee but this was not approved as the Government Members voted against it. Photo: VINO/File
At the end of the debate the Opposition side proposed that the Bill be further considered in a select committee but this was not approved as the Government Members voted against it. Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – Representative for the Third District Honourable Julian Fraser RA believes the Computer Misuse and Cyber Crime Bill, passed in the House of Assembly last night March 13, 2014, is broad in its definitions and could be misapplied to silence the media and has deemed parts of it unconstitutional.

He was speaking yesterday during the Fifth Sitting of the Third Session of the Second House of Assembly. At the end of the debate the Opposition side proposed that the Bill be further considered in a select committee but this was not approved as the Government Members voted against it. The legislation passed following its exit from Committee stage.

While there were some amendments adopted prior to its passage, these were not substantial and did nothing to address the concerns of the local media.

“It is my view that the Premier ought to consider a further look at this particular Bill Madame Speaker. I have no objection to a Bill like this being passed in this House of Assembly, but when it comes to the infringement on the freedoms and rights of individuals I have a problem with that,” he said, pointing out that there is precedent in such legislation being held in contempt of the Constitution and cited a case in the Philippines to this end.

He said that according to the feedback he received time and opportunity were not given for a sufficient review of the legislation prior to it being brought before the House of Assembly.

Hon Fraser said any concern of the people is a concern of his and he would raise it even at the expense of his being in the House, as he voiced deep concerns over the implications of the Computer Misuse and Cyber Crime Bill 2013.

He called the Act broad and inclusive. “I have gained some knowledge of the drafting of legislation after being in the House as long as he has been,” he said.

“Madame Speaker there is nothing that you can talk about today that is not included in that chapter [of the legislation],” said Fraser, emphasizing the broadness of the scope of the legislation. “It means your photocopier, your IPad, your smartphone, your camera, your laptop, your desktop, your calculator, your GPS, Fax, tablet, Kindle, server…it includes everything,” he said.

Hon Fraser cited an example where people who can neither read nor write drive cars equipped with onboard computer systems and GPS. He said that while the drivers of those cars may not even be aware of the computer systems on board the car, they are deemed responsible for it were someone to use that computer system or GPS for any criminal or deviant activity.

He referred to Article 10 (1) of the Bill which says that where a person has access to a computer or to a programme or data held in any computer for a specified lawful purpose, he or she commits an offence if he or she without lawful authority a. copies, transfers, shares, alters, retains, disposes of, or in any manner deals with a programme or data or any other information contained in that or any other computer…”

He asked what the difference was between someone who steals or otherwise misuses data from a computer to someone who takes paper files and other documents from an office. “It tells me Madame Speaker that there are laws that already exist to cover these circumstances,” he asked. He asked whether because the use of computers or other devices are involved the crime is greater than it was when persons stole paper files.

Hon Fraser raised the concern that the legislation may preclude media houses from publishing any information gained from “whistleblowers.”

“This Madame Speaker in my view is similar to the piece of information…the Auditor General’s Report on the Cruise Pier Project published in the online media. Am I seeing now that this becomes a crime under this Bill?” he asked.

Madame Speaker I can’t see how public servants are going to function now. With this Bill: what’s real and what’s imagined…the line is going to be blurred,” said Hon Fraser. “How do you get information now from the Public Service Madame Speaker? How do you know what information to give? And what is the problem with the document such as the one that was published on line – an Auditor General’s report being published in the media? What is the problem with that? Why all this secrecy Madame Speaker?” he asked.

“I have a problem understanding the true nature of this article, the genesis of it and I wish to have an explanation Madame Speaker before I could sign on to something like this,” Hon Fraser said.

“I do not see where the damage lies in publishing a document that is supposed to be a government document,” he said.

He also decried another article in the Act which suggested that the legislation is retroactive and can punish offences committed even before it came into being. “Madame Speaker, one of the basic tenets of democracy is freedom, freedom to express yourself. And one expresses himself based on his knowledge of the law. At the time the expression was made this law was not in force…it didn’t even exist,” he posited. “And now you’re telling me that the law is saying to me that the Act applies where prior to the enactment of the commencement of this act. That is retroactive legislation Madame Speaker; that is a threat to democracy,” said Hon Fraser.

“Madame Speaker I put it to you that this particular article in the legislation is unconstitutional,” he said, referring to Article 3 (4) of the Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Bill 2013, which he said contravenes Chapter 2 Section (23) of the Virgin Islands Constitution, the section that speaks to the protection of freedom of expression.

30 Responses to “Cyber Bill to muzzle the press passes”

  • dem say (14/03/2014, 09:11) Like (17) Dislike (8) Reply
    Hurry up and get those animals out
  • egg face (14/03/2014, 09:17) Like (7) Dislike (4) Reply
    Leave them tis will come back to hunt um
    • Just my 2 cents (14/03/2014, 13:09) Like (8) Dislike (2) Reply
      Won't it be funny that they NDP become sucessfull in passing this bill and get voted out. Then when they are in the opposition they can't rely on whistle blower because of this same bill they passed?
  • bb (14/03/2014, 09:18) Like (11) Dislike (3) Reply
    wow, are those guys really serious, retroactive?, who are they trying to get at, and don't tell me is not some sort of score these guys trying to settle, wow wow wow, i think it is unconstitutional, based on what the constitution says about freedom of expression, it must be.
  • rattie (14/03/2014, 09:35) Like (12) Dislike (2) Reply
    let's see if this will help the NDP win another election in the bvi
  • Yes (14/03/2014, 09:36) Like (2) Dislike (11) Reply
    Who cares what he believes? NEXT!

    The bill muzzles the press while the press continues to report against the Government. Some muzzle huh? LMAO!
  • Confucius (14/03/2014, 09:48) Like (17) Dislike (4) Reply
    We get what we deserve.

    This is a very, very sad day. Our democratic process has just been delivered a death blow. The potential for abuse of power is mind boggling. Mark my words, most of us will live to regret the passing of this bill.

    Hopefully in 2015, revisions will be made.
  • AC 360 (14/03/2014, 09:55) Like (3) Dislike (1) Reply
  • cay (14/03/2014, 10:12) Like (8) Dislike (3) Reply
    and all the mouth VIp has when they get in they will not do a thing about that bill
  • pete (14/03/2014, 10:28) Like (10) Dislike (1) Reply
    I am grateful to that the audit general's report on the cruise ship development was made public. This project is supposed to have been made on the public's behalf, yet we are not privy to insider information on who benefits?
    Conflict of interest and cronyism, and corruption go against the very public they are sworn to protect and listen to. This investigative reporting is NECESSARY, although it didn't seem to make any difference when an agreement was still signed with the cruise companies without cleaning up the issues.
    Knowing how laws are written around here, let's hope it is so vague that it goes the other way-- that the law can't be upheld because it is so broad and poorly written.
  • Yes (14/03/2014, 10:34) Like (10) Dislike (1) Reply
    Who they trying to fool about protection of the financial services sector?
  • Well Sah! (14/03/2014, 10:36) Like (7) Dislike (1) Reply
    Just to get at willock?????
    • @ Well Sah! (16/03/2014, 15:47) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      I admit to being as mystified as anyone about this whole thing, with them trying to shut down one news site
  • chad (14/03/2014, 11:39) Like (6) Dislike (1) Reply
    These institutional failures are destine to happen when we elect a bunch of mad power hunger, selfish and agar ant people to run this country, the NDP has always believe in socialism and common isms, look at their party colors, they have be gradually introducing commonism to this country all the time but over the past two years they have take a radical approach, they came to power with a mission to accomplish. One is to make the enter public service and the judiciary an arm of the NDP, to ax everyone who does not confirm with their corrupt views and replace them with their cronies. To make every board and arm of the NDP, to used executive force to make the people submissive.

    Today the NDP is governing the country the way the run their businesses and treat their staff. In a democratic society the electorates are the employer and the government is the employee. The employee is answerable to the employer not visa verse. Today the NDP has declare that no one can hold them accountable and they are answerable to no one, and what every they do we must take it and shut up. Today the NDP has declare that their corrupt transactions and shady deals must not be made public and the public must only here what the NDP want you to hear. Today the NDP has declare the BVI an arm of China and Russer, RED SQUARE AND TEENANAM SQUARE, AND STARLINE REVOLUTIONARY SQUARE would soon be constructed in the BVI.
  • NICK (14/03/2014, 12:08) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    To all media out lets establish a face book page with a different name and publish all your information on face book, shear that page with others and the word would get around, invite people to join your face book page, advertise your FB page and continue to the good work. Face book is global, take your information to a wider audience. Dictators are not leaders and in today world we have no place and tolerance for them. Let them charge the owner of FB for materials publish against them.
  • big girls rule (14/03/2014, 14:20) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Dats a kool photo of Mr fraser
    • Grunt floss (14/03/2014, 15:26) Like (0) Dislike (2) Reply
      Yeah. Makes him look truthful and intelligent. You can even fool the camera too.
  • rattie (14/03/2014, 18:36) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Could you belive that Dr Smith with a straight face said that this bill was not to mussel the press dem too dam lie
  • MMG (14/03/2014, 19:20) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    Look my country turn communist under this island man government...never thought I would have live to see this...jah
  • wise up (15/03/2014, 02:02) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    poor BVI; we have whites here blocking off our beaches and NDP have done nothing on this matter; we need better laws to protect our children from those dirty hard-seed old men and NDP does nothing BUT can find time to mess with the press....i do not know what that bald-head minister have against VINO because started all this dumb fak; run quick go talk that !!!!!
  • bob merley (15/03/2014, 06:34) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    What happened in darkness will come to light
  • Reality check (15/03/2014, 08:06) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    The constitution is the highest law of the land. It is now clear that the Government of the day disregards this document.
  • cnn (15/03/2014, 12:11) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    The ndp does not want the press to broke the code of silence!
  • arabh (15/03/2014, 13:47) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
  • mad as hell (15/03/2014, 18:21) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    It's only now we are more determine to vote out the entire ndp
  • dfr (17/03/2014, 14:13) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    While well intentioned this bill is unenforceable and not practical ! Who is going to police and enforce this ? his bill will force bloggers to go underground and cause more bad than good. If the USA does not have such a bill why would this work in the BVI ? This bill should be thrashed !!

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