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Bill criminalising threatening text messages causes uproar

instagram, cybercrime, apps, applications

MPs, organised groups, and members of the public were furious on Wednesday over a bill aimed at criminalising threatening text messages and online posts, decrying it as a tightening noose around free speech.

Discussed at the House legal committee, its chairman Disy MP Nicos Tornaritis said the bill would head back to the justice ministry for further discussion with affected parties.

Highlighting “serious objections” to the bill, Akel MP Andreas Pasiourtides said the committee for media ethics as well as the publisher’s association were not invited to express their views during the consultation process before the bill was submitted.

An excerpt from the government bill – posted online by Greens MP Charalambos Theopemptou – specified someone could be subject to a year in jail for causing “disturbance” or “unnecessary concern” to another individual through calls or texts with knowingly false content.

The same could apply if someone was persistently using the internet to the same effect.

If found guilty, an individual may also be fined up to €3,000 – or have a stint behind bars along with a fine. Pundits raised several concerns on the vagueness of bill is and how wide the net will be cast around how something may be classed as “disturbing” or “concerning.”

Tornaritis said the first and foremost concern “is to protect the freedom of expression.” Next in line of priorities was legislating with criminalising in last place.

The aim of the bill is to protect vulnerable citizens who may be subject to threatening behaviour, he added.

Tornaritis said the justice ministry has 15 days to move forward with more talks with the bodies which have asked to have a say on the matter – namely the committee for media ethics as well as the publisher’s association.

He expressed the hope the upgraded version of the bill would be back to the committee as soon as possible.

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