T&T media group wants cybercrime legislation revisited

Thursday, June 19, 2014

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) is calling on the coalition people's Partnership Government to redraft and revise legislation aimed at clamping down on computer hacking that Opposition legislators have warned could seriously affect press freedom.

The TTPBA said that the Cybercrime Bill 2014 has the potential to muzzle the media and undermine investigative journalism, and it has called on Government to discuss the issues concerning the bill with the media association and other stakeholders.

"In reviewing this bill, it would seem that no thought was given to the repercussions of a free media nor to the role of the media as watchdogs of our nation. We appeal to the Government to begin a round of consultation and to work with stakeholder associations so that a better way forward can be defined," the TTPBA said in a statement.

The association also cited other examples of recent legislation which could threaten the work of journalists, such as the Criminal Libel and Defamation Act and the Data Protection Act.

The TTPBA said while in the case of the Criminal Libel and Defamation Act, partial revisions had been made, the Data Protection Act still needed to be addressed.

"The TTPBA understand the need for a Cybercrime Bill but we urge Government to strongly reconsider this and any other legislation which may ultimately result in the demise of our democracy," said the media group.

Last Friday, National Security Minister Gary Griffith, who piloted the Cybercrime Bill 2014, said that it would make it a crime for anyone who engaged in the unauthorised transmission or sharing of electronic mails.

Griffith said based on reports from the Cybercrime Unit of the Police Service, Trinidad and Tobago had witnessed an increase in the number of cyber incidents, including online bullying, attempted domain hijacking, website hacking and defacement.

"In April 2012, the Ministry of Finance and Parliament websites were hacked and in July 2012 ATM skimming scams, whereby well-hidden cameras were used by thieves to capture the personal identification numbers for some customers' debit and credit cards from a few major banking institutions," he said.

The bill, which requires a special majority to pass, would create the offence of "illegally accessing a computer system, whereby a person intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification accesses a computer system for the purposes of securing computer data.

But opposition legislator, Terrence Deyalsingh said the proposed legislation would affect the freedom of the media. He told legislators that there were provisions in the bill that will result in heavy fines and jail sentences for media workers.




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