Minister of Industry, Science and Technology Marsha Caddle, who successfully piloted the controversial Cybercrime Bill, 2024 through the Lower House of Parliament believes it is the responsibility of the government to engage with those who raised concerns about the legislation.
She also wants engagement on cybercrime to be conducted in an environment of “honesty”.
Wrapping up the debate on the bill in Parliament on Tuesday, Caddle noted that the concerns of the critics are not taken “lightly” because she believes they have been put forward by well-meaning Barbadians. She insisted that the continued engagement was being pursued to put people at ease while she continued to insist that the legislation does not impact citizens’ freedom of speech.
“We exist in this society along with others. We exist in this society having to protect our neighbours, having to have regard to how our actions affect others,” she told the Chamber in the pre-lunch session. “At the core of our understanding of justice as a society is the balance of freedom and harm – the freedom of the individual to act in a particular way versus the harm caused to another individual or group by those actions. And it is enshrined in our constitution.”
She queried what were the things that people wanted to say that they believe the Cybercrime Bill would hinder, saying that the answer to this question should trigger a process of internal reflection.
“Consider what it is you want to say. Does it pass the test of truth? [Do] both its content and manner of communication pass the test of freedom from intimidation and freedom from harassment? If it does not pass that test, it should not require legislation to stop you from saying it,” the minister said.
Caddle also charged that one of the main critics of the legislation six years ago advocated for an updating of the Computer Misuse Act to include sexual abuse of children and suggested that Barbados align itself with the Budapest Convention which set the global standard on cybercrime and offered best practices in this regard.
She said the same writer said this week that the Budapest Convention does not represent the best practice on cybercrime.
“If we are going to go to the country and raise concerns, do so with the full context,” she suggested. “If each party that is bringing ideas to contend together does so in full honesty, then every Barbadian will win. There is no one-upmanship to be had here. If we are honest and clear in our desire to make Barbados better, let us engage honestly in that regard.”
Caddle concluded that the legislation was not conceptualised to protect those who have the wherewithal to protect themselves.
“This is not about politicians. This is about the young people who find themselves in the thick of a morass online and do not know where to turn,” she added. “This legislation protects people’s lives and their livelihoods.”