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“Leave Mudwata alone”: APNU+AFC, gov’t clash over cybercrime law

Last Updated on Monday, 7 February 2022, 21:59 by Writer

Geeta Chandan                                                                 Robeson Benn

Almost three years after the then A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) administration had passed the cybercrime legislation despite warnings, now that they are in opposition they are accusing the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-led government of using that law to clamp down on freedom of expression.

APNU+AFC Shadow Home Affairs Minister Geeta Chandan-Edmond sought to justify the passage of the legislation in 2018, in the wake of a number of persons being investigated for allegedly violating the Cybercrime Act. “This Act was introduced by the APNU+AFC but it was not intended to chase down ‘Mudwata’ and others. It was intended to stop child pornography, the sharing of nudes without permission and the use of electronic devices for terrorist activities. It was never envisaged to be used to protect thin-skinned, snowflakes in the government from emotional abuse and trauma because they are subject to public critique and ridicule,” he said during the 2022 Budget Debate in parliament today.

Gavin Matthews, Rickford Burke and Sherod Duncan and a man believed to be social media character, Mudwata, have all been cited for breaches of the Cybercrime Act in recent months. But, Ms. Chandan-Edmond, speaking in the National Assembly, appealed to the Guyana government to “stop abusing” that legislation and all0w Guyanese to post their views candidly and very responsibly on social media. “Stop using the security apparatus to chase down Mudwata and get down to serious business… Stop chasing Mudwata and I call on you to reimagine our public security,” said.

Contending that freedom of speech was not being violated under the Granger administration between 2015 and 2020, the former magistrate said many persons are posting less and a number of them have opted to shut down their social media accounts.

However, Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn did not respond extensively to Ms. Chandan-Edmond but he accused her of seeking to avoid cybercrimes. under legislation that had been approved by the then David Granger administration. “The Honourable Member is avoiding the issue of cybercrime and not wanting to recognise cybercrime as cybercrime when persons affiliated with the APNU+AFC are delinquent in respect of those issues,” he said.

Former Assistant Police Commissioner and former Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Paul Slowe on Friday said that since making a report under the Cybercrime Act against Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall on October 15, 2021, “I have not heard anything from the police.”

Back in 2018, the Guyana Press Association (GPA) had called on the then APNU+AFC government to remove the offence of sedition from the Cybercrimes Bill because of the danger it poses to free speech. The media organisation had also cautioned that Guyana would be retrogressing instead of progressing by entrenching the criminalisation of freedom of expression if certain sections in the Cybercrime Bill are enacted into law.” The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) had stated then that with such a law “any form of ‘disaffection’ expressed by militants in their ranks in a tweet, a post, or other form of public social media statement, could trigger application of the above penalties to themselves and their party leaders,” the human rights body informed.