Online Bill caution
28 March, 2018, 12:00 am
THE Social Democratic Liberal Party youth council, while presenting submissions on the Online Safety Bill 2018 to the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights, said they were concerned about the effect of the Bill on free speech in Fiji.
In presenting the submissions to the committee, Samuela Savu said while the council appreciated the need to protect Fijians against revenge porn or unauthorised sharing of their intimate images or videos, they were concerned that the Bill was widely drafted and could be misused by those in authority.
“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.
Mr Savu said the SODELPA youth council was concerned that the Bill was fast-tracked in Parliament through Standing Order 51.
“The ministry should have had consultations with the public, prior to the Bill’s surprise tabling in Parliament. Given the worrying implications for freedom of speech, particularly given it is election year, it is our recommendation for this Bill to be shelved, reviewed and to undertake consultations after it is redrafted,” Mr Savu said.
He said the Office of the Attorney-General should have held wide public consultations, saying only two months to carry out consultation is not enough.
Meanwhile, National Federation Party vice-president Seini Nabou said the NFP had great difficulty in accepting the Bill in its current form as the intention of what the law was intended to achieve was very unclear and murky.
Committee member Mataiasi Niumataiwalu asked Ms Nabou if the NFP thought the Bill was relevant as it was talking about harmful “stuff” concerning minors and what was her personal view regarding the Bill.
Ms Nabou replied “You cannot get a very good robust law if you are going to cut and paste, which I think has been done here. I have read the New Zealand and Australian one (Online Safety law) and there’s a quick copy and paste that have appeared to have happened”.