Citizens protest Security Ministry over Sedition clause in Cyber Crime Bill
Two persons on Tuesday protested the Ministry of Public Security over the Sedition Clause in the Cyber Crime Bill which is engaging the attention of the National Assembly.
At a press conference on Friday last, Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan, who is also the Minister of Public Security, said the new Bill now covers sedition by use of a computer.
Ramjattan said this also includes Facebook and other computerized posts, but many argue that the Bill affects freedom of expression.
One of the protestors, Jonathan Yearwood feels that the Government will now be able to charge persons for posts that are not in their favour.
“He [Ramjattan] can look at the post that I put up and he can decide what he likes and what he dislikes…he can use to charge me for sedition. I’m here to tell him ‘No’ that I disagree with that…and we don’t want to see it passed into law,” Yearwood told News Room.
Yearwood argued that several other countries have removed sedition from their law but this Government is taking the country “backwards.”
Ramjattan made it clear that he is leading the charge to have the Sedition clause remain part of Guyana’s laws since a major overhaul of the Criminal Offences Act will be needed to have it completely removed.
The second protestor, Don Singh noted that the remaining clauses in the Bill are geared in the right direction, however, clause 18 (1) which makes it an act of sedition for someone to use a computer system to circulate messages deemed to excite or attempt to excite disaffection towards the Government, will “oppress” persons.
“If you don’t want people to spread ill will or disaffection, don’t do stupidness, do your job,” Singh said.
After the Government brought the Bill to the House on April 26, the Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. (TIGI), called for the scrapping of the sedition clause, noting that people will not be able to express themselves freely and without having to face legal action.
The People’s Progressive Party also raised concerns about the clause and admitted that it “dropped the ball” by agreeing to the clause when the Bill was before a select committee for two years.
The Bill was deferred to another sitting of the National Assembly.