The Trinidad & Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) has once again expressed concern that the Cyber Crime Bill 2015 in its current form would hinder media workers from accessing information for their jobs.
It also noted that there was little revision to the bill previously presented and rejected by the body and that no consultation had occurred since then.
“The Trinidad & Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) is surprised at the reintroduction of the Cyber Crime Bill without consultation.
“On a previous occasion in 2014, when the bill was brought before Parliament, the TTPBA expressed the need for consultation and then Minister of National Security, Gary Griffith, had agreed to such.
“Unfortunately, the meeting never took place due to the Minister’s departure from office,” the release stated.
The TTPBA added that while it agreed it was necessary for the Cyber Crime Bill to be in effect, the Government should revise the bill further.
“We urge Government to strongly reconsider this, and any other legislation which may ultimately result in the demise of our democracy.
“We look forward to being part of a stakeholder consultation and lending our assistance and cooperation to ensure our democracy is not undermined,” the release stated.
Chaguanas MP Jack Warner also argued yesterday that if the bill was passed in its current state, whistleblowers and journalists could be muzzled.
He made the comment as he spoke against the bill during debate in the Lower House, in the absence of the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) MPs who continued to boycott sittings in protest over the suspension of PNM Leader Dr Keith Rowley.
“If the legislation is passed then the media could be pressured and investigative journalism muzzled,” Warner said.
According to clause nine of the bill: “A person who, intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification, obtains for himself or another person, computer data which is not meant for him or the other person and which is protected against unauthorised access, commits an offence and is liable—(a) on summary conviction to a fine of one hundred thousand dollars and imprisonment for two years; or (b) on conviction on indictment to a fine of five hundred thousand dollars and imprisonment for three years.”
However, he said, the ambiguity of the bill allowed for an interpretation that could hinder journalists from doing investigative work.
One example Warner gave was the investigation into the National Gas Company’s budget.
He claimed that if the bill was passed then journalists would face serious penalties because of acquiring information for their stories, especially if it was acquired electronically.
Warner stated that the bill would also intimidate whistleblowers, causing them to remain silent and not expose corruption or illegal activities in companies.
According to the bill, computer data means “any representation of facts, concepts, machine-readable code or instructions; or information, including text, sound, image or video, that is in a form suitable for processing in a computer system and is capable of being sent, received or stored, and includes a program that can cause a computer system to perform a function.”
Warner said there was not much change from the 2014 version of the bill which was objected to by stakeholders, which included the TTPBA, and he wondered why there was a rush to debate it now.