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PRESS RELEASE dated 15th May 2015 by Trinidad & Tobago Publishers & Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) on CYBERCRIME BILL

The Trinidad & Tobago Publishers & Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) is surprised at the reintroduction into Parliament of the Cybercrime 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 Ministers of National Security, Gary Griffith, had agreed to such. Unfortunately the meeting never took place due to the Minister’s departure from office. We raise our concerns publicly as we wish to reiterate the need for
consultation. We again 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.

We again call on the Government to maintain the promise set forth by our Honourable Prime Minister Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the International Press Institute World Congress on June 2012 where she stated, “In this moment of reflection, and planning for our future, my solemn assurance as Head of Government is that this administration will protect, defend and uphold press freedom and the rights of journalists to “tell the story”. This solemn assurance is also equally made to protect, defend and uphold the freedom of each and every single man, woman and child in our country. We appreciate that a free press is an integral component of our democracy, as the voice of the population which is determined to “have a say” on issues of national importance, and as a channel for important public debates on issues. The free press is also what we all depend on to inform, inspire, monitor and support the interests of our citizens. In Trinidad and Tobago, the freedom of the press and of expression, are constitutionally guaranteed, regardless of whether it coincides or diverges with the views and priorities of the Government, or of State institutions.”
The TTPBA understands the need for a Cybercrime Bill but it urges 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.

Mailing Address: c/o I95.5FM., 47 Tragarete Road, Cor. Gatacre & Tragarete Roads,
Newtown, Port of Spain.
Contacts: President – 622-9292, Fax 628-7024; Secretary 688-7412
Directors, Daren Lee Sing –President, Kiran Maharaj – Vice President, Christopher Peru - Treasurer,
Rhonda Ottley, Lisa Agard Yaseen Rahaman, Lennox Toussaint, Peter Ames

Media groups express concerns over Trinidad and Tobago cyber crimes bill

IPI urges government to carry out stakeholder consultation

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar addresses the nation in the media room of the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's, Port-of-Spain, February 2, 2015. REUTERS/Andrea De Silva.

VIENNA, May 19, 2015 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today urged lawmakers in Trinidad and Tobago to take into account concerns by media stakeholders over a proposed cybercrime law.

The country’s Parliament is preparing for a third reading on a wide-ranging online crimes bill that targets, among other things, unauthorised data access, cyber-bullying and identity fraud. However, media groups, including the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) have raised alarm over the bill’s potential to chill investigative journalism in the twin-island Caribbean state.

At issue are two clauses, Arts. 9 and 13, intended to combat illegal data access, but which critics warn could pressure journalists and whistleblowers into silence. Under Art. 9, anyone who “without lawful excuse or justification” obtains privileged computer data faces up to five years in prison. Likewise, under Art. 13, anyone who receives or is given access to privileged data from another person also faces up to five years in prison “regardless of whether or not he knows that the other person obtained the computer data through authorised or unauthorised means”.

Trinidad and Tobago Housing Minister Dr. Roodal Moonilal announced today that Cabinet officials had agreed to meet with the TTPBA as well as the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) on Wednesday morning to address the groups’ concerns. The TTPBA had previously criticised what it viewed as the government’s failure to allow sufficient public consultation on the bill, which was introduced in May 2014.

“We look forward to being part of a stakeholder consultation and lending our assistance and cooperation to ensure our democracy is not undermined,” the TTPBA said in a statement released last weekend, adding that it urged the government to “strongly reconsider this [bill], and any other legislation which may ultimately result in the demise of our democracy”.

IPI Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen said IPI reiterated its position – first stated last summer – that Parliament must allow media representatives the opportunity to highlight elements of the bill that may affect journalists’ ability to carry out their work.

“As we have previously suggested, the dangers lurking in Arts. 9 and 13 of the cyber crimes bill are clear,” Griffen said. “Journalists should not face criminal prosecution for divulging information in the public interest and this bill does not provide any safeguards against such prosecution. Our position is that the bill in its current form is a threat to press freedom and the right to information in Trinidad and Tobago and should not be passed.”

He added: “In order to improve the measure, it is essential that the government and Parliament take into account the concerns of TTPBA and MATT, who understand the ways in which it may negatively affect their work.”

Other jurisdictions in the Caribbean region have grappled with drafting properly balanced cyber crime measures, Griffen noted. The legislature of the British Virgin Islands faced an outcry from journalists and international press freedom groups after passing a law that included a clause providing up to 15 years in prison for anyone who publishes unlawfully obtained information from a “protected computer”. Lawmakers ultimately passed an amendment to provide a public-interest exemption.