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Granger concerned about hate speech; anti-terrorism law targets inciting messages

President David Granger has expressed concern about the circulation of hate speech on Social Media.

Delivering remarks at a ceremony organised by the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG) in observance of Youman Nabi, the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad,  Granger said

“We must look. We mustn’t take things for granted because nowadays there are so many means of transmitting hostile propaganda,” he said.

The President noted that there are more than 650,000 thousand cellular phones in Guyana. “Sometimes we are not aware of the messages which are being transmitted by those Social Media; sometimes there are messages of hate and messages of violence,” he said.

His remark about the use of Social Media to promote hate  came days before government was due to hold public consultations on the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Bill 2015.

That draft law provides for a jail term of between 15 and 20 years for anyone convicted for distributing or otherwise making “available a message to the public with the intent to incite or with the knowledge that such message may incite the commission” of any offence in that law.

That section of the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Bill 2015 also refers to any act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian or any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict.

Following widespread criticism by the Private Sector Commission, Guyana Human Rights Association and the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) about government’s failure to hold proper consultations, the administration has organised a forum to do so on December 28, 2015 under the chairmanship of the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.

The President has said that there was no place for extremism like that being perpetrated against thousands of people by groups such as Boko-Haram in Nigeria. ““We have never had the sort of religious violence that we see in other countries and as far as I am concerned and I am sure as far as the CIOG and the Islamic community are concerned, these perverse doctrines do not find a place in our country but we must look, we mustn’t take things for granted,” he said.

The CIOG has also distanced itself from groups such as ISIL, ISIS, Boko-Haram and al-Qaeda.