Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith. Photo: Azlan Mohammed
By Sue-Ann Wayow
CITIZENS who are deliberately causing division on social media based on race, politics or otherwise can be charged by the police.
Commissioner of Police Captain Gary Griffith said while there was freedom of speech in this country, it was not absolute.
Griffith said, “If you have absolute right to do and say as you want it means that you will now infringe on the rights of other persons and that is what is happening right now on social media. As soon as you interfere with the rights of others and there may be a law being broken, that is where the Trinidad and Tobago police service will get involved. I understand that persons are very emotional, persons may be hurting, persons may be very happy but you cannot use emotions as an excuse to attack and infringe on the rights of others.”
He was speaking during a media conference held on Friday.
Griffith said since the general election on Monday, there have been too many social media posts causing strife. He is calling on citizens of this country to calm down.
“Hatred and bitterness can cause confrontation and that can cause violence. Take a deep breath and stop,” he said.
Also speaking at the conference was acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Jayson Forde.
He said, “We have seen something that is rearing its head that is unpleasant and unpalatable and certainly unacceptable in our beautiful republic. The freedom of speech that we have in the constitution, that freedom is not absolute. Because of the amount of hatred posts that have been bombarding the airwaves, we have actually started our investigative procedures. Persons will be prosecuted.”
Three acts under which such persons could be charged were the Sedition Act, Offences Against the Person Act and the Summary Offences Act.
According to the Sedition Act “a seditious intention is an intention to raise discontent or disaffection amongst inhabitants of Trinidad and Tobago, to engender or promote feelings of ill will or hostility between one or more sections of the community on the one hand and any other section or sections of the community on the other hand.”
It is also an intention to engender or promote feelings of ill-will towards, hostility to or contempt for any class of inhabitants of Trinidad and Tobago distinguished by race, colour, religion, profession calling or employment.
Forde said, “Many of these posts more than qualify for what I have just read here and once we find you and we have the evidence to support it you can be charged.”
Speaking briefly about the Offences Against the Person Act and what it entails, Forde said, “Alarming the person or causing the person distress by engaging in a course of action or conduct such as making contact with the person whether by gesture, directly verbally, by telephone, computer post or any other way, given offensive material to the person or leaving in a way where it will be found by, given to or brought to the attention of the person.”
He said, “We have a responsibility to educate you so that you will desist from that type of irresponsible and criminal behaviour because if you continue, we will prosecute it.”