You are here

Laws on revenge porn coming AG

Published: 
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Senate approves Libel and Defamation Bill

Anti-cyber-crime legislation, expected to be approved by Cabinet in two weeks, will also target people who wilfully circulate another person’s private files or photos on the Internet intending to cause them public embarrassment, hatred, humiliation and ridicule. It is proposed to make this a criminal act.

 

 

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan on Tuesday night gave the assurance that the upcoming legislation would cover such matters, in responding to complaints by Independent Senator Dr Dhanyshar Mahabir and PNM Senator Shamfa Cudjoe about problems caused by Internet abuse. They said that included cyber-bullying, “revenge porn” attacks, blackmail or smearing attempts and other such incidents, particularly affecting young people. 

 

Ramlogan announced the plan in the Senate around 11.15 pm during the passage of the Libel and Defamation Amendment Act. That bill was passed without amendment. While 21 Government and Independent senators voted for it, six PNM senators and Mahabir voted against. Mahabir produced amendments to the libel bill which he felt were necessary, considering “turbulence” in the cyberspace domain.

 

Quoting a Florida statute, he proposed that people who wilfully used the Internet to disseminate the personal files or photos of others to undermine, expose their private affairs and subject them to public ridicule, hatred, humiliation or embarrassment would be committing a criminal offence and should be liable to jail and a fine. If offenders are under 18, courts will also determine the punishment.

 

He said the situation has been going on all the time. He added that threatening to publish with similar intent should also be dealt with as incidents have occurred in which the private affairs of individuals have got into the wrong hands and threats were made to publish them online. “We had someone who brought great fame to T&T subject to this humiliation. We need to keep criminal libel on the lawbooks to send a signal to those who want to use this easy medium to cause harm to our defenceless youths,” Mahabir added.

 

He agreed to withdraw the libel amendments if AG Ramlogan assured they would be part of the upcoming cyber-crime legislation. Ramlogan, assuring it would be covered if it already was not in the bill, said the bill would be before Cabinet next week Thursday and once approved in about two weeks, would be laid in Parliament.

 

He said people had already been suing for posts on Facebook, Twitter and on blogs but agreed greater urgency was needed on the criminal side for the regulation of cyberspace because of cyber-bullying and other problems in a medium “where the next generation spends most of its time.”

 

Other items in the bill include illegal access to a computer system, computer-related forgery and fraud, identity-related offences, child pornography, luring, violation of privacy, harassment using electronic communication and multiple e-mail messages.

 

 

...but MATT still worried

The Media Association of T&T (MATT) is criticising Parliament’s failure to strike out the offence of criminal defamation from the Defamation and Libel Act 2013. In a press release yesterday, MATT’s executive said it was disappointed when the offence was not repealed in the final draft of the legislation which was passed in the Senate on Tuesday evening. 

 

 

“If lawmakers are genuine, given that their mission of ensuring press freedom remains an inviolable right of the people of T&T, they will remove this restrictive legislation, ensuring that journalists continue to enjoy the liberty and autonomy to make responsible decisions to the benefit of our society without the fear of imprisonment,” the release said. The organisation also claimed that the section contravened the fundamental right of press freedom found in the Constitution. 

 

The contentious section of the legislation states: “If any person maliciously publishes any defamatory libel, knowing the same to be false, he is liable on conviction to imprisonment for two years and to pay such fine as the court directs.” MATT did acknowledge that another controversial section dealing with the issue was in fact repealed in the legislation. The organisation said that the failure to repeal the section is counter-intuitive to the Government’s claim of its intention to decriminalise defamation and libel. 

 

“By allowing Section 8 to remain as part of this country’s laws, there is no way one can believe the intent to decriminalise defamation and libel is serious.,” the release said.