Repeal Sedition Provision of CYBERCRIME BILL
Submitted by the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID)
BROOKLYN: Guyana’s APNU+AFC coalition government’s proposed Cybercrime Bill that is currently being considered by Parliament has been greeted with disapproval by the New York based Caribbean democracy watchdog group, the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID). In an interview Tuesday with Nelson King of the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), the Institute’s President, Rickford Burke, a Guyanese, said he is astonished by the proposed legislation, which he described as “unconstitutional and an offensive infringement on free speech.”
Section 18 (1) (a) of the Bill makes it a crime of sedition punishable by five years in prison, if a person whether in or out of Guyana, “intentionally publishes, transmits or circulates by use of a computer system or any other means, a statement or words, either spoken or written, a text, video, image, sign, visible representation, or other thing, that brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in Guyana.”
Burke said this section of the proposed law is intended to “suppress criticism of the government and as such is repugnant to democratic norms of a free and open society.” Moreover, he blasted the international reach of the legislation as “repugnant to international law and a silly overreach outside of the jurisdiction of the Guyana government that is unenforceable and therefore bad law.”
He also said the Bill is an assault on the Caricom Charter of Civil Society to which Guyana is a signatory. The Charter was enacted in the Region on February 19, 1997 by regional Heads of Government in St. Johns Antigua. It binds Caricom Member States to the ideals of a free press, open democratic process and respect for civil, political, cultural, economic and other rights.
“This provision of the legislation is a breeding ground for despotism. CGID therefore calls on the government of Guyana to strike it from the Bill; or it will be an indelible black stain on the government which has a healthy record on good governance thus far,” the Institute’s President posited.
Burke said it is inconceivable and perplexing that the government has proposed legislation that severely undermines democracy, and which will inflict gaping, self-destructive political wounds; especially since its political leaders were champions of democracy when they were in opposition.
He asserted that he would expect such repressive legislation from the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP). He said that the PPP, while in government from 1992 to 2015, ran a brutally oppressive and ethnocratic regime that suppressed free speech and the rights of minorities while using the allegation of sedition to imprison several critics.
Burke said that although the PPP is now feigning innocence, its Members of Parliament made significant contributions to the construction of the abhorrent legislation during the Select Committee process in Parliament. He labeled the PPP’s subscription to the Bill as “disgraceful and unpatriotic.