Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Offensive clause to be removed from Electronic Crimes legislation

THE Grenada Government has announced that it will repeal three sections of the Electronic Crimes Act, which were of concern to media workers locally, regionally and internationally.

The legislation was approved by the Lower House of Parliament on June 28, 2013 and since its approval, there have been strong concerns and objections about its potential impact on freedom of expression, in particular the media. It was, however, approved by the Upper House without any amendments and came into law on October 3, 2013.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who is also the Minister for Information, promised that the sections of the legislation, which became very topical, will be removed and a date has since been set for legislators to amend the law.

“We will bring legislation to remove Sections 6, 16 and 25 of the Electronics Crimes Act, which as you know was of great concern to the press at the next sitting of Parliament. Those sections will be deleted,” Attorney General Cajeton Hood said. The Parliament was scheduled to meet yesterday.

The Electronic Crimes Bill is one of five pieces of legislation which was approved to facilitate the regional Electronic Government project, which is funded by the World Bank. It provides protection to citizens with regards to electronic crimes such as electronic identity theft; distribution of child pornography; prank calls to the law enforcement; electronic stalking; distributing of spoof and spam e-mails and other electronic formats; electronic fraud and forgery; electronic terrorism; offensive messages and violating another person’s privacy. Persons found guilty of a crime under the Electronic Crimes Bill can be sent to jail or be charged a fine of between EC$5 000 and EC$300 000.

The OECS Electronic Government for Regional Integration Project (EGRIP) comprises two phases: (1) Focus on cross-sectoral e-government issues as well as specific applications in the public finance area, and an e-government in-health pilot project; and (2) To deepen the assistance provided under Phase 1, while expanding the programmes to cover other sectors such as tourism, agriculture, health and education.

The project, which closed at the end of February 2014, offers countries E-government as an enabler to transform the public sector, significantly changing the relationship with citizens and businesses. This demonstrates the value of the investment in technology to address short-term economic and budgetary challenges, while supporting the OECS Economic Union in delivering on longer term public service improvement and democratic goals.

The project is expected to enhance transparency, and reduce opportunities for corruption and fraud, and lessen the cost of Public Service delivery. While reducing government spending, the EGRIP project facilitates an increase in opportunities for financing social and economic development programmes to improve the quality of life for the people of the OECS.

Ultimately, EGRIP will provide significant human capital development training, which will help to enhance the quality of service by government offices to “the man on the street”. The e-government applications will help the public sector to reduce cost in their provision of services as well as help to increase the business rankings of the participating OECS Member States. (LS)

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