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RSF calls for veto of Electronic Crimes law in Grenada

  • By Guest
  • September 27, 2013

By Larisa Manescu

In the form of a letter, Reporters without Borders (RSF in French) has just taken up arms against a recently passed Grenada law that punishes offensive content posted on the Internet. The letter, drafted by Secretary-general Christophe Deloire, urges Grenada’s Governor-General to veto the Electronic Crimes Law so that amendments could be made to it to ensure that freedom of speech would not be threatened by its provisions.

As a whole, the Electronic Crimes Law addresses 16 different issues, including clauses on online identity theft and child pornography.

RSF stated that it understands that the Internet is not above the law on crime and there exists a need to regulate the web for legitimate reasons. However, it raises multiple concerns over this specific clause of the law: “A person shall not knowingly or without lawful excuse or justification send by means of an electronic system or an electronic device (…) information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character.”

The following are the concerns raised by RSF in the letter to Grenada’s Governor-General:

  1. The term “offensive content” is extremely vague, and the law is unclear about how law enforcement will determine what does and doesn’t fall under this definition.
  2. The clause gives no mention that truth can be used as a defense for posting offensive content. Thus, online critics of a corrupt politician, businessman or other public official could be criminally punished even if their claims represent the truth.
  3. The clause states that the law doesn’t only apply to Grenada citizens or those working or travelling within the nation, but also to a person of any nationality “having an effect on the security of Grenada or its nationals, or having universal application under international law, custom and usage.”
  4. The law gives government officials the authority to access the personal information of individuals who are being investigated for violations.

Although the Electronic Crimes Bill was initially passed in June, it was subsequently withdrawn in early July due to outspoken criticism from the International Press Institute and other similar organizations. It was successfully passed again earlier this month on Sep. 9, and has been awaiting approval from the Governor-General.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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