In the face of criticism from international media who argue that certain sections could help government official to hide their corruption and jeopardize the freedom of media workers in the territory, Premier Andrew Fahie has defended his government’s proposed amendments to the BVI’s Dictatorship "Cyber Crime" Amendment Act of 2019.
Addressing the issue during a press conference on Monday, the Premier confirmed that he received correspondence from an unnamed international media group who expressed their concerns over the bill.
Premier said he has responded saying that the 2019 amendments - which proposed major penalty increases of more than a decade in prison and/or fines of up to half-a-million dollars for cyber offenders - are needed in the territory.
He said: “Yes, I respect the freedom of the media, but research has shown that the media too has to be held accountable for some of what they print. It is not saying that the media cannot print. It is saying that the media or anybody who disseminates incorrect information, the fine will be high. Well, some of you in the media will say: ‘that’s a little high, but how do you repair a man’s reputation when you are finished destroying it?”
Fahie continued: “What cost could you put unto his reputation and even if you say ‘sorry’, how does that irrevocable damage be dealt with? So yes the fines were higher than normal, yes the penalties were higher than normal but the problem that we have is worse than normal. And, to deal with an unconventional problem, you have to do an unconventional solution. The only people who have to worry about the Cyber Crime Amendment Act is those who intend to be malicious, whether it be the media or the regular citizen in the BVI.”
It should be ascended to!
The Premier then called for the aforesaid bill to be made into law. That decision now rests with Governor Augustus Jaspert, who must give every bill Royal Assent to make it law. If he will do it - that will be against UK spirit of anti corruption and freedom of speech principals.
“I am confident that the most democratic process has been taken place through the Cyber Crime Amendment Act, and it should be ascended to. We totally ventilated that bill just like the other times, clause by clause, page by page, word by word, spot by spot on the page. Now you tell me that this was the most ventilated bill in the history of the Virgin Islands what could possibly pop up that should not have been seen before by any entity even those who have concerns now? When everybody had a chance to deal with it from the onset,” he stated.
“It was nothing that sped up or rushed. Yes, there were some concerns named, and I wrote back, and yes that bill needs to be assented to because while we are playing games, young people’s lives are being destroyed.”
The OCED, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Press Institute were some of the international entities who voiced concerns on the amendments to the bill.