Premier Andrew Fahie has denounced allegations which suggests that the recently assented-to Computer Misuse and Cybercrime (Amendment) Act of 2019 is geared towards stifling freedom of speech in the territory.
The leader of government business made the statement in Tuesday’s session of the House of Assembly, in response to criticism received by local and international personnel on the matter.
“Never did we as Honourable members speak of this legislation as a tool to threaten the principle and guarantee of free expression and press freedom. In amending this Act, never did we say or even conceive that the people of Virgin Islands did not have a fundamental right to debate the public figures and policies that affect their lives,” Fahie argued.
“Your government appreciates the role of the media. The media is an integral part of maintaining democracy and accountability and this government will never do anything to silence the media” he added.
Media must be held accountable for publications
Premier Fahie also said while his government will not be silencing the media and that they (the media) still must also be held responsible and accountable for their actions.
He said Section 23 of the Virgin Islands Constitution, which freedom of expression is guaranteed, prescribes the limits to this exercise of freedom of expression.
“While I respect the concerns expressed, it is clear that the right to freedom of expression is not absolute and must be exercised without violating or infringing certain other protected rights and interests, such as the right to protection of reputation and national security,” he stated.
“The Cyber Crime Legislation is intended to provide protection against unlawful communication publicised for the sole purpose of damaging the reputation of citizens and residents and for which the Constitution specifically restricts,” the Premier further explained.
Persons who are found guilty of electronic defamation can be fined up to $100,000 or face a maximum of three years in prison, or both.
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