SOME 10 days ago, I wrote a piece following expressions of concern in Papua New Guinea that new cybersecurity legislation would be used to crack down on freedom of speech.
Political commentator Martyn Namorong said he would shut down his Namorong Report blog to avoid breaching the new Act and Transparency International chair Lawrence Stephens said he was worried the Act was “the start of a slippery slope to wider censorship”.
My remarks in response basically argued “let’s see how the new laws are applied, then form a judgement.”
But, having now read the long list of possible wrongdoings covered and seen the penalties that could be imposed, I believe Namorong and Stephens have valid concerns.
I’m sure most of us would have no problem in the authorities cracking down on electronic fraud, child pornography, cyber extortion, identity theft and the like.
But 25 years gaol for ‘defamatory publication’ seems just a little over the top.
This is especially so given that PNG already has a Defamation Act that states “where an offender knows the defamatory matter to be false, he is liable to a fine not exceeding K1,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both.”
I know of only one social media defamation case brought in PNG. This was by prime minister Peter O’Neill against Noel Anjo Kolao and Sonja Barry Ramoi.
Justice Kandakasi handed down a decision ordering Anjo and Ramoi to pay the Prime Minister’s costs of of K1,500.
Pales into insignificance does that judgement when compared with the new law’s threat of a 25-year term at Bomana – more than for most cases of murder.
On reflection, then, I must conclude that the defamation component of the new cybercrime legislation has been put there deliberately to intimidate and to stifle criticism and dissent.
Martyn Namorong and Lawrence Stephens are on to something.