The International Press Institute (IPI) which was one of international organizations that lobbied heavily against the controversial “Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act, 2014” announced last Friday August 8 that it welcomed the House of Assembly’s decision to amend the legislation.
The ICIJ was one of the international media organizations that criticized the legislation’s Section 13 which recommends a fine not exceeding $78,900 and up to 15 years imprisonment for anyone who publishes information that they garnered from a “protected computer”. The new amendment however, stipulates that a person can escape penalty if the can prove that they published the information in the public interest.
In the August 8 article IPI Press Freedom Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean Vanessa I. Garnica announced that the press organization was not very satisfied with the amendments: “IPI still has questions on the amended section, as it does not specify who would actually be protected under this clause, the citizens of the British Virgin Islands or the government of the BVI,” she said.
In presenting the objects and reason of the bill, Premier Dr. The Hon. Hon. D. Orlando Smith announced that it was only four months ago that the House of Assembly passed the Bill. However, he disclosed that following the passing of the legislation views were expressed that the Bill was not clear in its scope.
The BVI Leader said that as a result the document was discussed and he was advised to take the Bill back to the House before it could complete its journey to become law. He said that he was advised that examination should be made of the point that deals with publication in the public’s interest.
Dr. Smith stated that the Bill before the House was amended to include sub-clause 4 with a provision which exempts from liability the person who is publishing in the public’s interest. He stated that the Bill is not designed to muzzle anyone, and that nothing else has been changed.
In wrapping up the debate, Hon. Smith disclosed that after the Bill came to the House there were concerns by people in the community and by the Governor that people publishing data identifying government wrong should be free to do so, hence he said the amendment was made. As it relates to the point that was raised about ‘public’s interest’ he said that the courts are well aware of the definition. The Premier also added that sometime it is necessary for bills to be passed the same day and explained that this was one such occasion.