Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Dr Crowne: The problem with the Cybercrime Bill and why journalists are right to be afraid

Dr Crowne: The problem with the Cybercrime Bill and why journalists are right to be afraid

“The ‘formal’ effect of the provision would seemingly not criminalise investigative journalism, whereas the ‘substantive’ and practical effect would in fact stifle investigative journalism and journalistic independence as a whole. Democratic discourse could be severely trammelled.”

Senior lecturer (Mona) and barrister Dr Emir Crowne, BA, LLB, LLM, LLM, PhD, LEC, points to the perceived wrongs and errors in the Government’s proposed Cybercrime Bill:

Photo: The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) has objected to the Government’s proposed Cybercrime Bill.

Cybercrime is a growing threat to personal and national safety. The Cybercrime Bill, 2017 (the “Bill”), which is intended to repeal the Computer Misuse Act, is an ongoing recognition of these threats. The Bill, however, suffers from several defects—many of which are also present in the Computer Misuse Act.

First, the Bill itself states that it is inconsistent with sections 4 and 5 of the Constitution—and therefore needs to be passed by a special majority. With this recognition in mind, the constitutional elements need not be discussed at this time.

Second, the Bill sets out several offences (sections 5 – 19), but offers little in the way of defences or exemptions. This is where the rub lies with respect to, among other things, journalistic freedom and investigative journalism in particular.

Sub-section 8 (2) states that: “A person who intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification receives or gains access to computer data knowing the same to have been stolen or obtained pursuant to subsection (1) [unauthorised access to a computer system] commits an offence…”

Photo: A satirical take on whistleblowing.

Some have suggested that this would, in effect, criminalise investigative journalism. This is partly true. The sub-section clearly states “without lawful excuse or justification.” It seems self-evident—to me at least—that receipt of such data for investigative purposes is a lawful excuse, or justification.

The problem, however, is the lack of statutory reference to such a defence or exception. In the absence of which, journalists—and others—will need to establish the existence of such a defence or exception through the Courts. Which is utterly unacceptable when one considers the fees involved, the systemic delays in the criminal justice system, and the two – three year term of imprisonment that the offence carries with it.

In other words, the “formal” effect of the provision would seemingly not criminalise investigative journalism, whereas the “substantive” and practical effect would in fact stifle investigative journalism and journalistic independence as a whole. Democratic discourse could be severely trammelled.

Third, and with the greatest of respect, several provisions simply don’t make sense.

For instance, section 6 states: “A person who, intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification, remains logged into a computer system or part of a computer system or continues to use a computer system commits an offence…”

Photo: Whistleblowers beware…

Undoubtedly, the provision is intended to cover situations where persons use a computer system after someone else has logged into it—like a computer terminal in a university or even an ATM. But the provision itself does not say that.

Therefore, by logging into my own laptop and typing this review, I have—evidently—committed a cybercrime.

Sub-section 12(1) is also awkwardly drafted. It states that:

“A person who, through authorised or unauthorised means, obtains or accesses computer data which –

(a) is commercially sensitive or a trade secret;

(b) relates to the national security of the State; or

(c) is stored on a computer system and is protected against unauthorized access,

and intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification grants access to or gives the computer data to another person, whether or not he knows that the other person is authorised to receive or have access to the computer data, commits an offence.”

Photo: War on whistleblowers?
(Copyright Transparency International)

Indeed, it would seem that sub-section 12(1)(c) covers all of the previous sections. However, the fact that sub-sections (a) and (b) exist suggest that there are trade secrets, commercially sensitive data, and/or matters of national security that are stored on freely accessible computers. This is surely nonsensical and at odds with the definition of “commercially sensitive”, “trade secret” and/or matters of “national security.”

Furthermore, the Canadian-based Centre for Law and Democracy takes aim at sub-section 18(1), which states that: “A person who uses a computer system to communicate with the intention to cause harm to another person commits an offence.”

A senior legal officer for the Centre, states that: “A well-written news article about a war or famine may cause emotional distress. Similarly, an article about corruption would likely inflict harm, emotional and otherwise, on guilty officials.”

However, in fairness, the sub-section requires an intent to cause harm and is followed by sub-section 18(2) which enumerates several factors a Court can take into account in assessing the alleged offence, including “whether the communication is true or false” and “the context in which the communication appeared.”

Photo: A satirical take on whistleblowing.

Aside from the Bill’s offences, it is also extra-territorial in reach. Sub-section 20(1) indicates that it applies to citizens of Trinidad and Tobago “whether in Trinidad and Tobago or elsewhere”, and whether the act in question is done “wholly or partly in Trinidad and Tobago.” The full provision reads that:

“A Court in Trinidad and Tobago shall have jurisdiction in respect of an offence under this Act where the act constituting the offence is carried out –

(a) wholly or partly in Trinidad and Tobago;
(b) by a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, whether in Trinidad and Tobago or elsewhere; or
(c) by a person on board a vessel or aircraft registered in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Sub-section 20(2) then states that insofar as the person or computer system in question is in Trinidad and Tobago, or “the effect of the act, or the damage resulting from the act, occurs within Trinidad and Tobago” then the local Courts have jurisdiction over the matter.

Foreign and local journalists alike could therefore be hauled into the local Courts on charges of cybercrime for investigating, obtaining and/or sharing surreptitiously-obtained evidence of corruption in football, banking, politics, the list goes on.

Photo: A satirical take on whistleblowing.

Combine these provisions with the State’s ability to obtain “remote forensic tools”—on an ex-parte basis—to investigate alleged cybercrimes (section 28), the impact to journalistic freedom—and general freedom for that matter—are all severely undermined.

Indeed, if politics didn’t govern every single aspect of life in Trinidad, one could argue that such tools are perfectly legitimate in investigating cybercrime. But, this is Trinidad. A country where Supreme Court judges work into the wee hours of the morning only to be accused of political bias.

In sum, the Bill is an ongoing recognition of the need to protect the citizenry against cybercrimes. In many ways, it is a paradigm shift in the way criminality is traditionally viewed.

However, in addressing this new avenue for criminality, care must be taken to draft legislation that is precise, impairs constitutional rights as least as possible, and sets out clear defences and exceptions, especially where personal liberty is at stake.

Photo: Tackling cybercrime…

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92 comments

  1. “Therefore, by logging into my own laptop and typing this review, I have—evidently—committed a cybercrime.” – not so sure about this though – it’s your laptop so it’s lawful to use it, or am I missing something?

    • you’re not. It’s just the cynicism that is used in arguments to criticise…without seeking to find a real way forward. We are at the core an iconoclast society that resists progress.

    • Kwesi Prescod I won’t go so far as to say that – there is a lot of merit in his arguments. Let us choose to err on the side of not throwing away journalistic or any other kind of freedoms.

    • Antoinette, I would hear you…but some of the arguments are specious, as well. Further, there seems to be no recommendation on how to address these issues.

      Giving blanked exemptions to persons who are unidentifiable in law is not workable.

      Nether is creating a quai-judical body peopled only by people unidentificable in law.

      Nor is making electornic breaking and entering and larceny legal.

      without proposing workable solutions, then maybe we aren’t critiquing…maybe we are just playing mas…

  2. ” the systemic delays in the criminal justice system” this should be fixed first before any other law is introduced, unless it is a law to fix the delays…

  3. Even more:

    “‘A person who, through authorised or unauthorised means, obtains or accesses computer data which –

    (a) is commercially sensitive or a trade secret;

    (b) relates to the national security of the State; OR

    (c) is stored on a computer system and is protected against unauthorized access,

    and intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification grants access to or gives the computer data to another person, whether or not he knows that the other person is authorised to receive or have access to the computer data, commits an offence.’

    Indeed, it would seem that sub-section 12(1)(c) covers all of the previous sections. However, the fact that sub-sections (a) and (b) exist suggest that there are. This is surely nonsensical and at odds with the definition of “commercially sensitive”, “trade secret” and/or matters of “national security.””

    The author fails to heed the norms of statutory construction in making this critique. The language does not at all imply that there are ” trade secrets, commercially sensitive data, and/or matters of national security that are stored on freely accessible computers.” What it states is that (a) and (b) are separate considerations from (c)… as denoted by the very conspicuous “OR” separating (a) and (b) from (c).

    The Bill would criminalize conduct which through authorized or unauthorized means, obtains or accesses computer data which “…is stored on a computer system and is protected against unauthorized access,” and which is then INTENTIONALLY (as opposed to accidentally) and without lawful excuse or justification… shares that with another person.

    There is nothing “nonsensical” at all about that as drafted.

  4. More from the article:

    “For instance, section 6 states: ‘A person who, intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification, remains logged into a computer system or part of a computer system or continues to use a computer system commits an offence…’

    Undoubtedly, the provision is intended to cover situations where persons use a computer system after someone else has logged into it—like a computer terminal in a university or even an ATM. But the provision itself does not say that.

    Therefore, by logging into my own laptop and typing this review, I have—evidently—committed a cybercrime.”

    With the greatest of respect, this is farcical. There are other words I’m tempted to use but I don’t want my comments to seem disrespectful.

    If the author remains logged into his own laptop, then it stands to reason that he has a “lawful excuse or justification” for being logged into his own computer in the first place.

    Contrary to the assumption being made by the author that “the provision is intended to cover situations where persons use a computer system after someone else has logged into it,” as a former prosecutor, to me the reference is being made to persons who accidentally access a computer system to which they are not authorized and remain logged in… as opposed to someone who accidentally logs into a computer system without authorization, and immediately recognizes the error and logs back out.

  5. More from the article:

    “For instance, section 6 states: ‘A person who, intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification, remains logged into a computer system or part of a computer system or continues to use a computer system commits an offence…’

    Undoubtedly, the provision is intended to cover situations where persons use a computer system after someone else has logged into it—like a computer terminal in a university or even an ATM. But the provision itself does not say that.

    Therefore, by logging into my own laptop and typing this review, I have—evidently—committed a cybercrime.”

    With the greatest of respect, this is farcical. There are other words I’m tempted to use but I don’t want my comments to seem disrespectful.

    If the author remains logged into his own laptop, then it stands to reason that he has a “lawful excuse or justification” for being logged into his own computer in the first place.

    Contrary to the assumption being made by the author that “the provision is intended to cover situations where persons use a computer system after someone else has logged into it,” as a former prosecutor, to me the reference is being made to persons who access a computer system and remain logged in… as opposed to someone who accidentally logs into a computer system without authorization, and immediately recognizes the error and logs back out.

  6. Clause 8 (what the article describes as “Subsection 8” is just one of the many disagreements I have with the author’s take. 8(1) defines criminal access; 8(2) punishes the KNOWING receipt of information that was purloined as a result of illegal access. Where’s the problem exactly?

    He claims that “practical effect would in fact stifle investigative journalism and journalistic independence as a whole. Democratic discourse could be severely trammelled.” Is investigative journalism, journalistic independence or Democratic discourse impossible without individually accessing computer systems without authorization, or without exceeding the authorization granted to them? Calling such a claim “specious” would be kind.

    • I’m sure many stories on the banking sector started with information that was obtained illegally. Sigh.

    • I could equally, without substantiation, say that many stories started with information that was not illegally obtained, but neither statement is a substantive comment on the merits of the Bill.

    • I’m talking without substantiation? Sigh. Again that’s why I feel like I’m going in circles.

    • Lasana you say “I’m sure many stories […] illegally obtained.” Do you have proof that many of these stories were in fact based on information that was ILLEGALLY obtained? Do you know for “sure” as you state? Because I took that as a figure of speech… meaning you were just saying that for arguments’ sake.

      If the stories were illegally obtained then that’s a problem. If they were not then they are inapplicable to the present conversation. I’m not sure why you feel you’re talking in circles but if we’re arguing the merits of a law, I think it’s only fair that we adhere to a factual discussion.

    • Nigel, I don’t want to give too much from behind the curtain. But I’ve worked on stories involving banking info and I’ve spoken to other reporters who have as we sometimes trade notes and sources, etc.
      And many times, a source peers into an area that they are not supposed to for your benefit. Or they did it on their own suspicion and then take to media when they find wrongdoing.
      The people who have legitimate access to the information in financial stories are rarely the ones who would pass them on to the press.
      The banking sector has already changed a lot so as to make it very difficult for employees to find wrongdoing without being caught and fired. This bill raises the stakes considerably for such employees who are trying to alert the public to crimes.

    • Okay, fair enough… I take you at your word that there are actual cases from upon which you were drawing. But again, it comes down to the issue I raised earlier about someone breaking into my home to look for evidence. The Whistleblower Act as contemplated would provide avenues for such disclosures via the proper channels. I think we can all agree that the use of proper procedures and channels are necessary for sensitive situations as presently being discussed.

    • … and mind you, all of this is against the backdrop of “legal justification.” Even if not explicitly mentioned in the law, a court (or jury) easily could find legal justification under the circumstances you mention. As well they might not.

    • …so no need for explicit exemptions to a class of person not absolutely identifiable in law?

    • If the class cannot be defined with certainty it would be impossible to carve out legal exemptions for that class. To whom would the exemptions apply… if we cannot identify the individuals with certainty?

    • Also, if stories are published using inadmissable evidence, then no wonder we can’t get prosecutions!

    • Kwesi “fruit of the poisonous tree…”

  7. Clause 8 (what the article describes as “Subsection 8” is just one of the many disagreements I have with the author’s take. 8(1) defines criminal access; 8(2) punishes the KNOWING receipt of information that was purloined as a result of illegal access. Where’s the problem exactly?

    He claims that “practical effect would in fact stifle investigative journalism and journalistic independence as a whole. Democratic discourse could be severely trammelled.” Is investigative journalism, journalistic independence or Democratic discourse impossible without individually accessing computer systems without authorization, or without exceeding the authorization granted to them? Calling such a claim “specious” is to be kind.

    • I have found that Crowne often mouths off, and I suspect he uses his qualifications (why else have all of them published after his name in full detail?) to throw scare tactics into people. Argument from authority, a common fallacy that entraps people.

  8. A lot of focus on “hacking” but the Bill clearly covers acquiring information off computer systems by any unauthorized means which “hacking” is only a subset.

    http://www.ttparliament.org/legislations/b2017h15g.pdf

  9. Was the monies inappropriately sourced?? Were all sides given a chance to respond?

    I think such are important factors before publishing

  10. For the benefit of readers, the Govt could have argued that Sharmain Baboolal’s recent expose at the Ministry of Sport was a cybercrime due to a “hack”.
    And instead of the Prime Minister apologizing for the behavior of his Minister and the Permanent Secretary being moved, it would have been Baboolal and the whistleblower facing the threat of jail time.
    If you agree with that, then the cybercrime bill is for you.

    • This a misrepresentation of the bill. Nothing is that expose suggested a hack. Hacking is not even on the radar.

      If it was a hack, then there would not be a whistleblower. So your example is not only misleading, but internally inconsistent.

    • Kwesi the story included internal emails.
      I really won’t bother debating whether the use of internal emails can or cannot be considered a hack.
      I’m exhausted. Let people decide themselves.
      But it isn’t about whether the charge would stick people. But whether it would be sufficient to force a journalist to court which is where the bother is.

    • i support transparency to the point that a leak shouldnt be needed to see what the ministry spends on

    • to me the costs were not suspicious but the ministry have to account as to the no of people that was carried and their activities

    • That’s fine but leaks will always be important because what one person thinks irrelevant would not be so to someone else.
      An example would be the story on Justice Ramcharan that you referenced.

    • and according to the current bill, a leak (which probably led to this story) would not be illegal

    • “I really won’t bother debating whether the use of internal emails can or cannot be considered a hack.”

      Lasana Liburd but such a determination is important, you can’t proffer that example then refuse to substantiate whether it does or does not qualify as a crime under the Bill. Arguments such as this, and the general tone of the Crowne article, seem to deliberately take the most extremely pessimistic interpretation of the proposed legislation. And this is fine, we should absolutely examine the worst case scenarios, but they in turn must be reconciled against not only the language, but also the spirit of the Bill.

    • Nigel S. Scott, I’m not really up to debating that at this point. It’s gone on for some time and I’d rather leave that up to the imagination of others.
      But I am absolutely certain that it would be considered a hack for the party on the wrong end of that story.
      You know why? Deep pockets don’t use courts to win much of the time. They use the courts to intimidate, bully and frustrate.
      I know this from experience and many investigative journalists will say the same thing because we exchange notes.
      People can come down on whichever side they wish. I just gave my take as a practicing journalist.
      In my opinion, this bill leaves room for exploitation to the detriment of journalism. Dr Emir Crowne, as a barrister, pointed to some flaws too.
      I don’t really feel the need to say much more. But others can chime in and share views on the matter.

    • “But I am absolutely certain that it would be considered a hack for the party on the wrong end of that story.”

      Nope. because a hack is clearly defined and distinct from a leak. To go use ecxamples which are materially erroneous to make your case, then leave it to the imagination of others, is the definition of “fake news”

    • If the point is to have a chat without you, why bother weighing in at all? Of course you are free to engage or disengage as you see fit but it does little to further intelligent conversation to simply lob statements into the mix without discussion.

      With respect to the article, Dr. Crowne has his opinion but with very little exception, they fail to persuade.

    • Journalists want rights which I support but a minority don’t want to respect the rights of others

    • Internal emails appearing in a story can possibly be a hack. And that’s all the daylight that is needed. But why must I make the same point for two days?
      Any why do I have to repeatedly comment at all Nigel S. Scott? I gave my view and exchanged in some cross-talk. Surely there is enough in the story for people to discuss independent of myself.

    • Kyon I think most responsible journalists do in fact respect the rights of others. The central issue here is in fact a balancing of interests, the interest of the private individual or entity, balanced against the public’s interest to know. The problem is one of who stands at that gateway protecting privacy and controlling access. This bill attempts to create such a framework permitting for both. The pushback from Dr. Crowne and the media is that it goes too far in protecting privacy without allowing for adequate legal access. I’m okay with that in principle, as I’m more an advocate of privacy that for disclosure. Where I agree here is that more protections could be made more explicit, rather than left implicit, as I believe they are.

      Lasana if you discussed the issue of emails being considered violative of the law then I missed that, I just weighed in because to me that’s a salient point worthy of discussion, since much of recent whistleblowing in the media has been via internal emails. I believe your concern arises out of Clause 8, but while Clause 8 would cover emails, the circumstances under which most emails are shared (even by whistleblowers) would not be implicated by this Clause. I’m more than happy to discuss further to explain why, if in fact this is the Clause to which you refer.

    • Nigel S. Scott, is it possible for persons–be they IT workers or otherwise–to hack the company’s internal email server?
      If so, doesn’t this create a possibility for action under the cybercrime bill?

    • Sure it’s possible for “persons to hack a company’s internal email server, but what do we mean by “hack”? Again, quoting Clause 8, the Bill is clear:
      “Illegal acquisition of data
      8. (1) A person who intentionally and without lawful
      excuse or justification accesses a computer system without authorisation, or by exceeding authorised access, and obtains
      computer data commits an offence and is liable -”

      So if one INTENTIONALLY accesses a computer system WITHOUT AUTHORISATION, or by EXCEEDING AUTHORISED ACCESS…” that would be hacking.

      Most whistleblowers have authorized access and share what they are authorized to access. It stands to reason that you shouldn’t be allowed to break the law in the name of attempted whistleblowing. You shouldn’t be able to break into my house to look for evidence to incriminate me. Same you shouldn’t be allowed to break into my emails to do the same.

    • Exactly an officer can’t break into my house without a warrant so why should a hacker be excused

    • There is no whistleblower legislation and the debate about “hack” is quite possibly one that would end up before a court. And the court might very rule as you said Nigel S. Scott. Because that is sensible.
      What I’ve been trying to say for the last two days is that deep pockets don’t use the courts to solve sensible queries. They use it as a weapon by exploiting loopholes to frustrate journalists.
      If there is an opening, they will use it. It matters not that they will subsequently lose if they feel they have more money and time to burn on a legal wild goose chase than the journalist or publishing company.
      Really I think I have exhausted my points. I’ve been saying the same thing for two days on loop.
      Not to you Nigel. But I’ve been saying it repeatedly all the same.

    • I hear you on the main point as well as to your point on not having to repeat yourself. That being said however, the law on its face must be crafted so as to offer equal protection irrespective as to the circumstances of the individuals to whom it may apply. It would be next to impossible (say nothing of potentially unconstitutional) to draft a law in such a way as to favor “poor” people.

    • Yet, I bet the cybercrime bill won’t be used against politicians as they exercise parliamentary privilege…
      I agree that journalists should not be above the law. But the importance of the profession to a functioning democracy means you have to be very careful not to smother the potential benefits of good journalism.

    • Lasana Parliamentary privilege only applies to statements/actions in Parliament. If a politician discloses information in Parliament that is illegally obtained, then true, the disclosure would not be punished, but the illegal act of obtaining the information very much would be subject to the law.

    • Right. So war on our sources. Politicians probably won’t care. I care about my sources though.

    • I care about your sources as well, but they are not above the law… are they?

    • Until there is a clear distinction made between a malicious act and a move done to alert the public of possible wrongdoing BEFORE anyone is brought before the courts, then I’d have a problem.
      Put the onus on the company to prove maliciousness before any legal action can be initiated against source or publishing house.

    • That would be part of the process for the DPP to consider the ‘laying’ of charges. The burden of both proof and persuasion always lies with those prosecuting the action (be it civil or criminal). Further, with respect to journalists, the media enjoys a rebuttable presumption that their activities are pro bono publico and therefore legally justifiable. Criticism of the statute, while understandable, seem to assume that it would be applied in a legal vacuum, outside of the common law, which is never the case.

  11. What investigative journalism? U mean by telling us a judge tweet about what types of women he finds attractive ?

  12. The legislation is perfect if the intention was to have a chilling effect on freedom of expression. What happens under the shroud of the public service and government stays under the shroud of the public service and government.

  13. Lasana, I read this and for every issue he raises, he highlights the obvious need for the provision and highlightgs the weakness in DRAFTING of the law.

    I also note that nowhere does the learned doctor recommend exemptions for journalists….

    • How do you interpret this: “In other words, the “formal” effect of the provision would seemingly not criminalise investigative journalism, whereas the “substantive” and practical effect would in fact stifle investigative journalism and journalistic independence as a whole. Democratic discourse could be severely trammelled.”

    • That the POLICY (the formal effect) has merit, but the drafting of the legislation requires strengthening/ review in the context of the local legal system (the practical effect).

      And he did point out that investigative journalism can be construed as a legal justification. So no formal need for explicit mention of the “public interest defense” or blanket exemptions for the legally undefined person that is the journalist.

      Read it through thoroughly. The practical issue has to do with the delays and costs of the judicial system that would frustrate what would otherwise be ready treatment of precedence. He says it again and again throughout the discourse.

    • Kwesi, if it does not pass the practical test then that says plenty. If it makes it difficult for journalists to do their job in any way, then don’t expect us to applaud and say: Other than that it’s wonderful.
      “That” must be fixed as a matter of urgency.

    • Well it is before a JSC. Let’s see if realistic suggestions are proposed. If not, then we will not move forward.

    • And the root of the practical concern is th inefficiency of the legal system. That is external to the objective and scope of the law. Accordingly, it is outside of the ability of a law to change it

    • I think media houses in countries with efficient judicial systems would still think it extremely cumbersome to have to go to court every Monday to prove their bonafide credentials for an investigative story published on the weekend. And that is obviously more difficult–costly and time consuming–for independent bloggers and smaller media companies.
      So I don’t think that is the only problem.
      If anything, there should be an independent committee set up by journalists that decides, even before a charge is made.
      That committee can rule on the credentials of the publisher and liaise with the state body.
      As it is now, I reject the proposed bill.

    • On the Monday morning scenario…. that won’t be necessary or what is proposed by the legislation. What you don’t seem to want to appreciate is that journalist collusion in hacks is NOT encouraged anywhere.

      The committee you propose is more impractical than that which you dismiss. Why would this committee be better positioned to determine whether a hack has occurred? Would they have the judicial competence to determine when a crime has been committed? Who determines who qualifies as a journalist to be appointed to this body? Who appoints this body?

      This presumes that the journalist fraternity of above the cut and thrust of politics, corruption and illegality. The recent history shows otherwise.

    • Kwesi the committee is solely to decide who deserves the protection afforded to journalists and would save us a trip to the courthouse to do so.
      As for the hack… Well criminals don’t deserve privacy. They deserve for their crimes to be uncovered.
      Journalists have their own internal systems for determine methods of uncovering potential crime.
      But here is how you can help the media (if that is your aim)…
      Give us examples of the media misusing that power to the detriment of the business sector by the dissemination of legitimate trade secrets.
      How many examples do you think should be necessary for a bill that carries the risk of stifling investigative journalism?
      Maybe 40 in a decade, which is an average of four a year? How about 20? Ten? Five?
      What do you have to justify potentially haranguing journalists?

    • “Give us examples of the media misusing that power to the detriment of the business sector by the dissemination of legitimate trade secrets.”

      None. That’s why the clause, by its structure, excludes and does not impact legitimate journalistic activity. Even the good doctor says so in his article. So that aspect of the law does NOT stifle investigative journalism either.

      “the committee is solely to decide who deserves the protection afforded to journalists”

      but can you determine who are NOT journalists in law? Otherwise, I see that Committee being bogged down in lawsuits challenging who it deems a journalist or not. Thinking about it, that ‘s a quasi-judicial function of determining who benefits from an exemption from the law…is this Committee thus subject to the Freedom of Information Act and its members subject to the Integrity Commission? If not, how are we assured that the Committee doesn’t bend to the will of big business…or deep pocketed politicians?

      “As for the hack… Well criminals don’t deserve privacy. They deserve for their crimes to be uncovered.”

      and the journalist would know who is a criminal BEFORE undertaking a hack? or should journalists have the discretion to do a hack on ANYBODY, scattershot, hoping they net a criminal? Is it a current journalistic strategy to hire criminals to break into the homes of businesses or persons they seek to hrangue, and use information from this larceny to publish a story…? IF not, then depending on hacks should not be the strategic objective of the journalist.

      and our laws say that ALL people deserve their privacy. Not just who journalists view as innocent.

      your view of justice is extremely autocratic. Just remember, people are presumed innocent before PROVEN guilty. Journalists are not the arbiter of innocence or guilt. Journalists are NOT infallible.

    • Kwesi so you have no evidence of misuse of power by journalists but are happy to bring in a law to cure an ill that you cannot prove exists in the first place?
      Journalists will continue to dig where governments and their apologists don’t want us to.
      People are presumed innocent before proven guilty. Of course. But that doesn’t stop police investigations right? Because you have to get evidence of wrongdoing. N’est pas?
      There are many examples of journalists doing just that. And there will be more to come.
      This government and its apologists aren’t the first to try this. And they won’t be the last.
      Like I said, media houses have their own internal mechanisms before they start an investigation. If you can’t point to misuse then I’d say we have a far better track record than many local investigative bodies.

    • “so you have no evidence of misuse of power by journalists but are happy to bring in a law to cure an ill that you cannot prove exists in the first place?”

      Sascha Singh’s sex life was all over the media. That was responsible journaism Lasana? Bull. That happened this year and noblody in the media has done anything to treat with it.

      And I have demonstrated time and time again that the law does NOT attack journalists that are not breaking the existing law anyway. You insist on saying that it will be the deathknell to jounalism but haven demonstrated it. You instead provide an opinion that says exactly what I have said: that the law does not directly attack journalism. it is not a knife in the heart of the media. but it did acknowledge that die to wider systemic weaknesses, there can be abuse of process which will eventually be overturned by the law!!!

      you are just being pih-headed, ignoramt, and closed minded.

    • Sascha Singh is your example? All over which media? The Sunshine Newspaper? Kwesi, you’re hilarious yes. Lean on the media because Sascha Singh had some emails shared on a weekly tabloid eh?
      In any case, the committee I proposed would say whether that story deserved the protection afforded to bonafide journalists. Simple.

    • As for the insults, I’m not so easily rattled. Like I said, the efforts by this government and its apologists are far from original or unique. Just hubris.

    • There is NO LEAN on the media. Sasha’s example demonstrates that the capacity exists for the media to be infantile. And also demonstrates tha journalism does NOT exist in some ideal universe that some would suggest.

      But on the subject at hand:
      1) anti hacking law is standard ACROSS THE DEVELOPED WORLD. Hacking is breaking and entering. Removal of files due to a hack is theft. It is recognised like that in EVERY SERIOUS COUNTRY in the world. If you don’t think anti-hacking laws are not necessary, I have nothing else to say.

      2) blanket exclusions for journalist is NOT FACILITATED ANYWHERE IN THE DEVELOPED WORLD.

      3) there is no definition of a “bonafide journalist”…because freedom of the press is a constitutional right. As such, your committee is ultra vires the constutution.

      Yoy don’t want to hear, because you want to insist that anyone who disagrees with you is an apologist. you have to consider that YOU may be WRONG, that your perspective may be too narrow, and that in this instance, you are out of your depth and don’t have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about.

      but if you don’t have that emotional maturity, to consider perspectives other than your own, then there’s nothing more to say.

    • And yet you’re responding to a story in which the author, a learned attorney, points to where the bill has a detrimental effect on journalists.
      Sharp tool that you are, you can’t figure out what that means.
      And when it comes to matters of journalism, exactly which one of us is out of his depth?

    • Journalism and hacking are not intertwined. Your example of Sacha Singh shows that you’re not quite sure what journalism is to begin with.
      Which is why a special committee is necessary to protect what is a sacred part of any democracy.
      Essentially that committee would stop self-righteous people unaware of their own inadequacies from messing up things they do not understand.

    • And the learned attorney highlights that the issue is less the policy of the law but the drafting. Read the article.

      Further, the FACT that journalism is distinct from hacking is EXACTLY my point: the majority of the issues raised by journalists are targeting hackers and content pirates – as do the similar clauses treating with cyber crime in every major jurisdiction. If journalists are not pursuing these activities they have nothing to worry about.

      The committee you propose would need to be established in law to function as you suggest, and on the face of it, seems to operate outside the constitution as you seek to deny a right on subjective considerations. Good luck with that.

      Have you ever even read the bill. You seem ignorant of what it actually says, as opposed to what people say it says

    • Kwesi good intentions are meaningless unless they are there in black and white with no ambiguity so they can be used to protect journalists.

    • As long as they are protected more than the people. And only as long as you decide who gets that extra protection.

    • Remember journalists rely on sources. Dr. Crowne omitted the section which refers to intentionally accessing a computer system without lawful excuse or justification. This section targets journalists’ sources (whistleblowers) since they acquire the info and then disseminate to the journalist.

      If a whistleblower accesses data and then disseminates and attempts to raise a public interest defence then he may find himself having to answer why he did not got to the police, PCA, Integrity Commission or any other body tasked with investigating and/or sanctioning wrong doing as opposed to making the information public. Will a responce of “the [ ] doh investigate white dem ting” fly with a judge? Remember if you are caught with an illegal firearm it is not a defence to say “I get it for protection because of real threats that were already reported to d police but dey do nothing”.

      Criminalizing aspects of freedom of expression is contrary to the values of a democratic society. NO visa for you with a conviction. The inclusion of a custodial penalty speaks volumes. The absence of a clearly defined defence further muddies the waters. This “public interest” defence should be spelt out both for those accessing the data and those receiving.

      Note the interest generated in identifying the leak wrt the Tobago sporting escapades as opposed to sanctioning those who wasted tax payers’ money.

      Chilling effect means those recent exposes would be a thing of the past. The public would be non the wiser of public service misspending and other acts of impropriety.

    • Lasana this guy’s arguments make no sense whatsoever.

      Whistleblowing is not hacking. A whistleblower is, by definition, someone on the inside that leaks info that they have access to. So, by definition, they would not be accessing the system by unauthorized means. Then they did not get the info via a hack. And thus clause 8(1) and 8(2) does not apply.

      Even if a person got information from a hack and gave it to the TTPS, PCA or any other prosecuting body, that. Indy would be powerless to move forward, because the law would not allow prosecution using information gained through illegal means.

      So this entire diatribe is, sorry to say, absolute nonsense.

      I think you need to stop, and research what hacking actually is. Then you would realize that the clauses do not in any way impinge on journalists doing their work.

  14. Plus la meme..Let Earl translate…The P.N.M. has a history of trying to kill ideas, suppress freedom of expression except in the Nation, the organ of the Party..They gave us ‘subversive/banned literature’, limited radio licences, Jimmy “Rockjaw’ Bain who ran T.T.T, the sole television station like a media plantation..He banned the images, voices and views of labour leaders from the airwaves..There was a generation that had to hide to read certain books..Publications by Mao_tse Tung were feared more than marijuana by the State back then..Some flyers were feared almost as much as a handgun..Caribbean Contact, the most progressive church newspaper was chased out of it’s home in Trinidad. Besides let us put this in the context of what is happening to the judiciary because of social media for example..P.S. We do not want Lasana in denim top and shorts anyway..