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Media will be happy with Cybercrime Bill—Cuffie

Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Maxie Cuffie

Public Administration and Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie says he is confident that after Parliament’s Joint Select Committee completes its deliberations on the Cybercrime Bill, all stakeholders, including the media, will be happy with the legislation when it is debated and approved in Parliament.

Cuffie commented on the legislation during a cocktail reception at the Government Campus Plaza, Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain on Thursday night. The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year and sent immediately to the JSC for further consultations.

Vice President of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) Jabari Fraser and vice president of the Media Association of T&T (MATT) Joel Julien spoke of the issue.

Fraser said the regional media body is very concerned about the legislation and is providing support for the national association. Julien appealed to Cuffie and JSC member, National Security Minister Brigadier Edmund Dillon, to do what they can to address the concerns of journalists.

According to Julien, the legislation contains provisions that affects journalists

“We are hoping that you would take our calls and appeals for exemptions for journalists,” he said.

Julien said journalists believe the proposed legislation will stymie their work. He said T&T ranked 34 in the last press freedom index report, which was ten points better than the previous year.

Cuffie in response said he wanted to assure journalists that the Government remained committed to “getting legislation that treats with the issue of cybercrime as well as protecting the freedoms of journalists and the public in general.”

He said it was for those reasons the bill was referred to the JSC and not taken through all stages of debate in the Parliament as yet.

Cuffie said there have been extensive consultations and in the JSC and Government, Opposition and Independent senators will be able to bring their views and the concerns of the public in the final bill that is passed.

“And you can be sure that with the Government, Independents and Opposition combined, working on the bill, I think we will get a product that will be satisfactory to the public in general and I think the interest of journalists will be protected,” he said.

Cuffie said he was aware that there had been representations made by journalists and other stakeholders about what is important in ensuring the bill is acceptable to the population at large. He said he had “every confidence that the final product will be acceptable to the journalist fraternity, the public of T&T and the politicians.”

Earlier MATT expressed its dissatisfaction about the level of consultations on the measure.

Matt said previously that it remained “deeply troubled” that the bill had retained the potential to criminalise professional journalists working in the public interest.”

According to MATT: “This is a strategy already used against the press; we see provisions as drafted in this bill encouraging that practice against the press.”


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