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Cyber Crime Bill – questions of free speech, support for data-driven businesses

Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2020. 3:26 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Senate lined up today to support the Cyber Crime Bill, 2020, as the House did on Friday.

Lead opposition Senator Michel Chebat, however, brought up the issue of freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Constitution and how that may be infringed by this Act of Parliament. Senator Chebat said attorneys will have a field day with the Bill because much of it will have to be tested against the Constitution, whose section 12 provides, “a person shall not interfere from freedom of expression, freedom to communicate ideas, whether to the public or any class of persons and freedom and nothing contained in or done under any law shall be held to be in contravention with this section unless the law makes reasons for public order, etc.

And there is an opportunity for businesses dealing in data, according to temporary Senator and attorney Orson Elrington. Elrington pointed out that data-driven businesses such as business process outsourcing (BPO) and others will be happier to do business here knowing that their data is protected.

Other Senators raised questions of how prepared Belize is to tackle cybercrime. NGO rep Osmany Salas singled out the information technology (IT) department for Police and questioned section 12 in terms of video images. Trade Union Senator Elena Smith questioned whether there are cybercrime experts in Belize and what is the confidence that officers will receive proper training. Secondly, Smith questioned how you protect people from spying on you. Smith said there are also concerns with regard to the level of discretion given to judges.

Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte reminded that your rights do not exist in a vacuum; your right to liberty, freedom of expression, and so on do not run up against intent to commit a crime; you are free to express yourself, but not in a way that the expression will lead to an injury or harm to another person.

Senator Mark Lizarraga of the business community raised the need for a public education campaign because committing any of the offenses under the legislation will send them to jail. Lizarraga argued that while we are trying to protect the people there is also a need for public awareness.


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