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Online Safety bill passed in Parliament

May 16, 2018 4:49 am

Irresponsible users of social media be aware… the online safety bill has just been passed in Parliament this afternoon.

Anyone found guilty of a range of offenses under the bill including the spreading of hate speech or circulating explicit images and videos will now face jail time and hefty fines.

The bill which was open for public consultation, was debated upon and passed by an overwhelming majority this afternoon.

The bill which was tabled this afternoon, was voted upon with 27 voting for, 14 against while nine did not vote.

Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the people of Fiji need to be protected against those who take advantage of others by using social media.

While tabling the bill this afternoon, Sayed-Khaiyum says they have had numerous input by people who fronted the committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights.

He adds people spoke about the absence of democracy in the bill, but these people failed to understand the trauma of those who were affected.

“Some people who appeared before the committee said it is against democracy. What stupidity. What’s democratic about photographing somebody’s genitalia? What democratic about having lewd pictures of girls and having it go viral. What’s democratic about having a bill, that we have a commissioner who actually can try and mitigate this issue…. Not necessarily drag them to the courts but mitigate these issues. If people for example fear that an ex-partner of them will do something they can go to the commission to get it stopped…it’s not about locking up people but about creating a culture of respecting other people.”

In response, Opposition MP, Niko Nawaikula says the bill was not needed to take action against those who were doing wrong, however the laws needed changing.

“We all agree that victims need to be protected and privacy needs to be protected but this (bill) does not protect it.. I tell you how… the simplest fact and the simplest thing to do is to amend the crime decree, identify all this and make them criminal and make the sentences more.”

The chair of the parliamentary standing committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights, Ashneel Sudhakar, says victims could not wait for years to get justice and the bill ensures those wronged are able to get justice.

“You post something now, within minutes it’s all over the world. If you wait for two years for the court to give you a hearing date, you already done … the reason we have separate function of the commission and the police here is that there are civil elements as well as criminal elements to the bill.”

National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad, siding with fellow opposition members says the bill is not what was expected as most of their input was left out.

“Majority of the people that made submission rejected the bill … They suggested amendments if they didn’t reject the bill outright. That made sense. As I have said it is quite difficult to understand why government would rush into this when there are existing mechanisms.

Prasad adds they reject the bill and claims there are many flaws in it.