NEWS

SODELPA Youth Wary of Free Speech Aspect

SODELPA Youth Council members came in numbers yesterday to have their views about the Online Safety Bill known to the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights. Voicing the
28 Mar 2018 09:28
SODELPA Youth Wary of Free Speech Aspect
SODELPA Youth Council member Samuela Savu (right), while making a submission to the Standing Committee on Justice Law and Human Rights on March 27, 2018. Photo: Ronald Kumar

SODELPA Youth Council members came in numbers yesterday to have their views about the Online Safety Bill known to the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights.

Voicing the group’s submissions yesterday, Samuela Savu said they were concerned about the effect of the Bill on free speech in Fiji.

He said they appreciated the need to protect children, men and women against revenge porn or unauthorised sharing of intimate images or videos.

However, they were concerned that the Bill was too widely drafted  and claimed that it could be misused by those in authority to prosecute political opponents.

“When it comes to racism and religious vilification, we believe there are existing laws sufficient in the Crimes Decree and Public Order Decree to deal with religious and racial vilification, so the offence in the Bill in Section 24 is unnecessarily wide and needs to be reviewed,” Mr Savu said.

They were also concerned that the Bill had been what they called railroaded through Parliament under Standing Order 51 and that the ministry should have had public consultations prior to it being tabled in Parliament.

Mr Savu submitted that the ambiguous offences listed in the Bill posed a threat to freedom of expression.

“Given the worrying implications for freedom of speech, particularly given it is election year, it is our main recommendation for this Bill to be shelved, reviewed and to undertake consultations after it is redrafted,” he said.

The SODELPA Youth Council stated that child protection and communication was an issue that needed to be addressed.

“Rather than setting up another Commission for Online Safety, we recommend that a Special Commissioner to look after Children’s Rights could be appointed within the existing Human Rights Commission, by amending the Human Rights Commission Decree.”

They also suggested that there be a review of the criminal offences included in the Bill so that they were what they call fit for the purpose.

Mr Savu also submitted that parents needed to be educated on the advantages and dangers of internet use by children.

Edited by George Kulamaiwasa

Feedback: fonua.talei@fijisun.com.fj



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