Cyber-crime bill: Concerns that clause 18 can silence critics taken out of context- Harmon

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Clause 18 of the Cyber-crime Bill outlines that “persons commit an offence of sedition when they, quote, attempt to bring into hatred or excite disaffection towards the government.”

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon

However, these provisions have, in fact, excited worry among social media users who have since spoken out that the measures included in clause 18 of the Cyber-crime Bill of 2016 could be used to silence persons who are critical of the Government, thereby limiting their freedom of expression.

But State Minister Joseph Harmon, when posed with the concerns highlighted, said today at a post cabinet press briefing that clause 18 is being taken out of context.

“the measures of the bill are meant to strengthen our ability to defend ourselves against cyber-attack” he said while outlining that to read the section at the exclusion of the bill’s entirety is taking it out of context.

Pertaining to the wording of clause 18 of the bill, Harmon maintained that they speak to threats to national security.

“It’s the kind of attack you don’t have an enemy out there in uniform. These are people who utilise the internet, who utilise computers to actually attack your systems. In particular, the government is concerned about the security systems of the state…Espionage, sabotage, subversion… all of these are security issues which are important enough to the state. An attack which threatens any of these institutions from a computer, it constitutes an offence” he said.

Laid in the National Assembly since 2016, the Cyber Crimes Bill had catered for, inter alia: illegal access to a computer system; illegal interception; illegal data interference; illegal acquisition of data; illegal system interference; unauthorised receiving or granting of access to computer data; computer related forgery; computer related fraud; offences affecting critical infrastructure; identity related offences; child pornography; child luring and violation of privacy among a sleuth of other offences.

A Special Select Committee, comprising of Government and Opposition members,  had been working on the bill for the past few years and their report on the bill was presented recently.

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