JANELLE DE SOUZA AND RIA CHAITRAM
In response to the Attorney General begging the Media Association (MATT) to support the Cybercrime Bill, MATT president Dr Sheila Rampersad stressed that the problem was not the legislation but the current version of the bill.
On Friday, at a briefing at his Port of Spain office, the topic of alleged nude photos of a public figure being published on social media arose.
AG Faris Al-Rawi said, “We are only talking about it for eight years. Help me! Help me! I'm begging TT. I'm begging the media. Do I have your deal?... We can't talk about misogyny and tragedy and say 'stop!' and then all of us don't do our part. Come on! Media Association, do you part.”
In a statement on Saturday, Rampersad said the organisation was not opposed to cybercrime legislation, but the present form was too broad and cast too wide a net.
She explained, “It would apply not only to people doing ill but also people doing work in the public interest, artists and performers, among others.”
In addition she said the current bill “criminalises basic practices of journalism.”
She pointed out that last year, MATT did not just take issue with the bill but also offered proposals on how to remedy these flaws through written submissions and at hearings of the joint select committee on the legislation.
“The ball is in the AG’s court, not MATT’s. We made submissions for a public-interest exemption. The AG has not yet responded.”
However, on Saturday, Al-Rawi again called on MATT to support the cybercrime bill, once more referring to current incident relating to the public figure. He spoke during a toy drive in his San Fernando West constituency.
"This is not about PNM or UNC that is harassing the lovely young lady. She is a victim. It could be anybody's child, sister, mother and it is just wrong,” he said.
Al-Rawi said that it was unfortunate that such a person had to endure such a hideous act at this stage in their career.
He said, “Every other country around the world has mechanisms in place to deal with something like this. I am asking for MATT’s advocacy on the matter.”
Although the AG did not identify the public figure, the matter relates to Chaguanas mayor Vandana Mohit. After her installation as the borough's mayor this week, nude photos allegedly of Mohit began circulating on social media. She has distanced herself from the matter, saying she was focussed on her mayoral duties.