PPP/C proposing deletion of sedition clause from cyber crime bill

As the National Assembly sits to debate the Cybercrime Bill over the next six hours its members will have two different solutions for the controversial sedition clause to consider.

The Government side of the house has proposed amendments which remove criticism of government and government officials from the list of offences while the opposition has proposed the entire deletion of the Section 18 which contains the clause.

Following its consideration at a special select committee the Cybercrime bill was returned to the National Assembly on April 26.

Almost immediately concerns were raised about Section 18 (1) of the bill, which states: “A person commits an offence of sedition if the person, whether in or out of Guyana, intentionally publishes, transmits or circulates by use of a computer system, a statement or words, either spoken or written, a text, video, image, sign, visible representation, or other thing, that (a) brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in Guyana.”

The inclusion of the sedition clause was interpreted as an attempt to stifle the rights of individuals to freedom of speech. Opposition members of the select committee including former Attorney General Anil Nandlall belatedly came forward to denounce its inclusion while the National Toshoas Council, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) have all come out publicly against the clause, along with a number of other civil society organisations.

Today Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira has proposed that the entire section be removed. An amendment submitted to the House under Teixeira’s signature reads “Amendment to the Cybercrime Bill; Offences of Sedition Delete entire clause 18 (1) – (4).”

Attorney General Basil Williams under whose name the bill is tabled has however proposed that the Sedition Clause be substituted with an “Offences against the state”

Section 18 (1) of this clause states: “A person commits an offence of sedition if the person, whether in or out of Guyana, intentionally publishes, transmits or circulates by use of a computer system, a statement or words, either spoken or written, a text, video, image, sign, visible representation, or other thing, that: (a) advocates the use, without authority of the law, of force as a means of accomplishing a governmental change in Guyana.”

Other amendments seek to clarify that for the purposes of sub-section (1) a statement or words, either spoken or written, a text, video, image, sign, visible representation, or other thing does not constitute an offence if it (a) expresses disapprobation of the measure of the government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means or (b) expresses disapprobation of the administration or other action of the government.

Speaking with Stabroek News before the start of the session Teixeira noted that these amendments are not enough.

“Nothing other than the complete removal of the section is good enough,” she stressed.

 

 

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