Bring the full weight of the law down on the mischief merchants

Bring the full weight of the law down on the mischief merchants

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

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The police, we note, have charged a man with creating public mischief in relation to the circulation of a voice note falsely claiming a shutdown of Westmoreland as the island tries to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19.

According to the police, their investigations have revealed that this man was the mastermind behind the voice note and as such they named him as a person of interest in the case.

Without knowledge of the evidence in the possession of the police, we make no judgement about the innocence or guilt of this individual. However, we are firm in our belief that if he is indeed found guilty he should be severely punished.

For any such act is most despicable, as it only serves to fuel fear and panic among the population which is already on edge because of this pandemic.

There are already far too any people who seem to delight in misinformation at this time.

On Monday evening at the post-Cabinet news briefing at which the Government outlined new measures in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Andrew Holness made mention of the Westmoreland case and said there were others — one in which his name is used — that are being investigated.

He vowed that the authorities would not let up in their investigations and, when the perpetrators are caught, they would be prosecuted.

Outside of the mischief created by these individuals who relish publishing false information, Jamaicans need to acknowledge that what is at play here is irresponsibility grounded in deviousness and, in some instances, a desire to subvert authority through the use of falsehoods.

Law-abiding Jamaicans should not stand for this. As we have stated before, the birth and growth of the Internet has delivered both good and bad to mankind as the technology is both a great source of information and misinformation.

We have seen so many instances in which people use modern technology to either sow strife, misery, or, worse, damage reputations of fellow human beings, organisations, or countries.

We recall eight years ago a businessman was sentenced to 18 months at hard labour in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court for creating public mischief, after admitting he had lied in making a report against two policemen which resulted in them being arrested and charged for numerous offences.

At the time, then Assistant Commissioner of Police Justin Felice reminded the public that while the police force was determined to weed out corruption and unethical behaviour, people must be mindful that if they make false allegations against members of the security forces they would be arrested and brought before the court.

That legal protection, though, is applicable to any person.

As such, we hope that the authorities will give greater investigative focus, not only to the current instance about which the prime minister spoke, but to as many cases as possible of mischief and downright despicable allegations made on social media or the Internet against people, organisations, or the State.

The merchants of mischief should be made to face the full force of the law.


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