Statement by His Excellency Governor Augustus J.U. Jaspert
on the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Amendment Act, 2019
12 February, 2020
This morning I assented to the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime (Amendment) Act, 2019, bringing the amendments into effect. Before giving assent, I considered the provisions in the amended Act very carefully. Many of these amendments are positive steps and are needed to deter nefarious online behaviour such as cyberbullying, to prevent and identity theft and fraud, and to protect children and vulnerable people.
However, concerns have also been expressed to me by local and regional members of the media, particularly in relation to freedom of expression. Their concerns relate to certain provisions in the amended Act that they believe may threaten the principle and guarantee of free expression and press freedom and that the citizens of any democracy have a fundamental right to debate the public figures and policies that affect their lives.
My view is that freedom of expression can, and should, include the right to appropriately say things that others may not want to hear. Social media and online platforms are necessary in a democracy for discussion, exchange of information and opinions. I have been assured that those provisions in the amended Act that have attracted criticism should not, and will not, be seen as free rein for prosecuting content which is consistent with guarantees of freedom of expression in a democratic society.
After consulting the Premier and Cabinet, I have assented to the Act. And, in order to ensure that the importance of freedom of speech for citizens and journalistic comment is protected, I have also recommended to the Director of Public Prosecutions that she consider the drafting of guidelines that would help to ensure that the offences created under the Computer Misuse and Crime Act as amended can be prosecuted fairly and effectively without compromising freedom of speech guaranteed by the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007, particularly protection for those commenting online and for journalistic reporting.