Gov’t cultural advisor to issue counter-statement to cops in cybercrime probe

Ruel Johnson

Cultural Policy Advisor Ruel Johnson, who is now the subject of a police investigation over comments made on Facebook about accused pedophile teacher Coen Jackson and his fiancée Tiffany Humphrey, has met with the police.

Johnson yesterday told Stabroek News that he met with a detective, who clarified the allegations. He added that he has since committed to providing a full statement in response to the allegations by both Jackson and Humphrey.

“I will not go into detail except to say that the various points raised in the complaint range from the ludicrous to being easily refutable. What I find interesting is that a complaint that claims I am seeking to somehow sway a potential jury pool for Mr. Jackson’s trial was itself leaked to the press even before I had a chance to speak to the police. That appears to me to be a desperate strategy to discredit someone who Mr. Jackson himself admits is a witness in a case in which he is charged for several crimes under the Sexual Offences Act,” he told this newspaper.

“That said, there is a wider issue at play here, and one that has dangerous implications for democracy and free speech.  As a journalist, I’ve been practicing due diligence for a very long time, but the implications for the average citizen here are dangerous. Not only does it serve to potentially criminalise criticism but I can easily see it presenting an undue burden on the investigative capacity of the police force at a time when it’s starved for resources.  I recall the GPA [Guyana Press Association] raising issues about this section before the bill was passed – perhaps it’s time the issue is revisited, with help from organizstions like the GPA. Criminal defamation has no place in a modern liberal democracy and its retention in the cybercrime legislation is as archaic as it is impracticable. The same goes for what seems be criminalised indecent language,” Johnson added.

Based on statements given to the police by Jackson and Humphrey, which were seen by this newspaper, they have cited Johnson’s comments on the post as being in breach of Section 19(3) of the Cybercrime Act, which was passed in July.

It states that a person commits an offence if the person uses a computer system to disseminate any information, statement or image, knowing the same to be false, that (a) causes damage to the reputation of another person; or (b) subjects another person to public ridicule, contempt, hatred or embarrassment.

The comments under investigation were said to have been made on September 16th, 2018, under a post by Ronald Austin Jr., which focused on Jackson being employed by a private school in the city with his trial still pending.

Meanwhile, Jackson, in his statement, alleged that Johnson, who is a witness in his upcoming trial, made several false claims against him in his comments, while Humphrey has accused Johnson of attacking her character when she sought to correct the claims made on the Facebook post.

Jackson was committed to stand trial at the High Court in May this year on a charge that alleges he engaged in sexual activity with a child.

Responding to a question of what the next step will be for him as it relates to the police investigation, Johnson said, “The next step is that they accept my statement. I suppose whether charges are going to be laid or not depends on what is in my statement. I’m confident that none will but it ultimately rests with the police.”

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