Young people, who never wrote letters to an editor, never participated in daily call-in programmes or involved themselves in discussions about current events, might feel that they are free to text or post any libel, slander, obscenity or seditious material on the internet. However, when media personnel, members of parliament and indeed anyone who has lived through a previous state of emergency (or emergencies), pretend that they do not understand the implications of seditious or inflammatory postings, we are facing serious issues indeed.
Of course we are referring to the recent posting on YouTube, of seditious, inflammatory and obscene comments, which included threats against the Prime Minister, by a girl said to be fourteen years old. Two issues arise here: the specific incident, and how the authorities, and indeed the girl’s parents, deal with the matter, and of course the wider issue, brought to the fore by the girl’s video, of what controls in law, or in “custom”, must apply to social media messaging.
We do not include ourselves among those who claim that now she has posted an apology the matter should be closed. And we distance ourselves further from the comments of Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne, that the girl has been traumatized by the turmoil arising from her action, and she should be left alone. Dr Browne falls squarely into the category mentioned above, in that we believe he knows better, and should not be seeking to gain points against the Government in this unfortunate matter.
Sedition, slander, incitement and obscenity can be prosecuted whether it is written in the newspapers, spoken on radio or television, or in any public place. It stands to reason that printing or speaking on the internet, or via texting, FaceBook or Twitter, must conform to the same public standards and laws which govern “free speech” in our society. There is not, and has never been, any unfettered right to “free speech”, where one can shout “Fire!” in a crowded room if no fire exists”. Similarly, no one, and especially no child, is allowed to use this new-found “media of easy convenience” to slander, threaten or abuse anyone else.
But the matter under discussion is compounded when someone abuses and threatens the Prime Minister during a state of emergency. That video posting would normally demand immediate detention of the person who posted it.
The child, and indeed her parents, must acknowledge that a very serious and dangerous breach of the SoE Regulations was committed. If she has “become traumatised”, then she should be counselled. But it is she who traumatised herself, not AG Ramlogan or anyone else. We believe that she and her parents must stand before a magistrate and explain how she did this thing. We do not advocate punishment, but suggest that that she and her parents receive counselling beyond this self-inflicted trauma.
Young people would be well advised to know that prospective employers now check applicants’ “postings” to judge what sort of standards they maintain for themselves.
To everyone else: We urge you all to stop seeing the proposed monitoring of social networks as “dictatorship” and the suppression of free speech, and appreciate that sedition is sedition, especially when posted in cyberspace.
And as far as Mr Browne is concerned he seems to have a very short memory.
Mr Browne’s reference to a “minor” being traumatised because objections were raised to her behaviour, is instructive. Has he forgotten that among the 140/plus insurrectionists who in 1990 violently and murderously tried to overthrow a duly elected government of this country, was a boy of 14 years who had no problem holding a gun? Has he also forgotten his own pious protestations in Parliament not so long ago and his “shock” at the abusive language of one Nicki Minaj at a concert in Port of Spain?