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Governor assents Cybercrime Bill despite 'Free Speech' concerns

-Local DPP charged with drafting guidelines to ensure act is not abused to prosecute individuals & media
The government proposed Computer Misuse and Cybercrime (Amendment) Act, 2019, has been was assented today February 12, 2020, thus paving the way for a new era in VI's ICT use. Photo: Internet Source
 Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert said while concerns have been made by local and regional members of the media, particularly in relation to freedom of expression—which resulted in a delay in assenting the bill—recommendation have been made to draft guidelines to prevent abuse. Photo: VINO/File
Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert said while concerns have been made by local and regional members of the media, particularly in relation to freedom of expression—which resulted in a delay in assenting the bill—recommendation have been made to draft guidelines to prevent abuse. Photo: VINO/File
Director of Advocacy at the International Press Institute, Ravi R. Prasad expressed concern with the Computer Misuse, and Cyber Crime Amendment Act of 2019, citing that if the changes come into law it would be used to prosecute and silence the media in the Virgin Islands. Photo: International Press Institute
Director of Advocacy at the International Press Institute, Ravi R. Prasad expressed concern with the Computer Misuse, and Cyber Crime Amendment Act of 2019, citing that if the changes come into law it would be used to prosecute and silence the media in the Virgin Islands. Photo: International Press Institute
The Governor noted that consultations were made with Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) about the concerns surrounding the bill. Photo: Facebook/File
The Governor noted that consultations were made with Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) about the concerns surrounding the bill. Photo: Facebook/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI - Even as international media watchdogs and Virgin Islands (VI) Governor, H.E. Augustus J. U. Jaspert cited freedom of expression concerns in the government proposed Computer Misuse and Cybercrime (Amendment) Act, 2019, the bill was assented today, February 12, 2020, paving the way for a new era in VI's ICT use.

"Before giving assent, I considered the provisions in the amended Act very carefully. Many of these amendments are positive steps and are needed to deter nefarious online behaviours such as cyberbullying, to prevent identity theft and fraud, and to protect children and vulnerable people," Governor Jasert said in statements released today as part of the announcement. 

Concerns still linger over the Act 

Ahead of the bill passing in the HoA, international journalists and press agencies had complained that the act violates freedom of expression rights.

Director of Advocacy at the International Press Institute, Ravi R. Prasad had expressed concern with the Act, citing that if the changes come into law it would be used to prosecute and silence the media in the Virgin Islands.

However, he said while concerns have been made by local and regional members of the media, particularly in relation to freedom of expression—which resulted in a delay with assenting the bill—important recommendations have been made. 

According to the Governor, "Their [media] concerns relate to certain provisions in the amended Act that they believe may threaten the principle and guarantee of free expression and press freedom and that the citizens of any democracy have a fundamental right to debate the public figures and policies that affect their lives," he said. 

People have a right to speak - Gov Jaspert 

The Governor noted that his view is that freedom of expression can, and should, include the right to appropriately say things that others may not want to hear.

"Social media and online platforms are necessary in a democracy for discussion, exchange of information and opinions. I have been assured that those provisions in the amended Act that have attracted criticism should not, and will not, be seen as free rein for prosecuting content which is consistent with guarantees of freedom of expression in a democratic society."

The Governor also indicated that the act was assented to after some consultation with Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1), a process that has been ongoing since 2019.

Preventing abuse of Bill

The Governor further underscored that in order to ensure the importance of freedom of speech for citizens and journalistic comment is protected, recommendations were made that the local Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) considers the drafting of guidelines. 

These guidelines he said would help to ensure that the offences created under the act as amended, "can be prosecuted fairly and effectively without compromising freedom of speech guaranteed by the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007, particularly protection for those commenting online and for journalistic reporting."

Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) reached out to Premier Fahie for comments regarding what his consultations with the Governor entailed, that sparked the final decision to assent the bill, however, no response was received up to publication time. 

7 Responses to “Governor assents Cybercrime Bill despite 'Free Speech' concerns”

  • cnn (13/02/2020, 04:07) Like (5) Dislike (5) Reply

    This governor hates democracy?

  • Legal tender (13/02/2020, 05:19) Like (6) Dislike (7) Reply
    Freedom of speech has always been enshrined in our constitution but people often misunderstood the concept of freedom of speech. It does not mean that because you have freedom of speech that you must go about telling people what you want, saying all sorts of derogatory things about people, tarnishing peoples name and damaging peoples character. So even though the constitution makes it possible for freedom of speech, measures still have to be put in place to ensure peoples image are protected. I do well come this act. I know the media is very important in bringing many important messages to the people but to be honest, many of them are guilty of irresponsible reporting at times and also must be held accountable.
  • Norris Turnbull (13/02/2020, 06:52) Like (4) Dislike (5) Reply
    Governor wrong for this. Seems like he's setting up the Premier. Keep an eye on th his man born in 1977.
  • concern (13/02/2020, 08:48) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    It is still not clear what comments or statements will be considered illegal. Will the illegality of a statement be dependent on the whim of some government official who doesn't like it?
  • good job (13/02/2020, 11:34) Like (6) Dislike (6) Reply
    this is a great thing to control all the bvi scum bags
  • ABC (13/02/2020, 22:01) Like (7) Dislike (3) Reply
    We still want the governor gone
  • facts (14/02/2020, 00:31) Like (1) Dislike (2) Reply
    This Governor needs to GO!


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