British Virgin Islands update: Public interest exemption included in “Cybercrime” bill, under pressure from media and governor

The BVI Beacon has an update on the “Cybercrime” bill in the British Virgin Islands:

“Following pressure from Governor Boyd McCleary, the House of Assembly has revised a bill that had been condemned by media outlets and press freedom watchdogs here and abroad.

The new bill, which was expedited through the HOA [House of Assembly] on Tuesday, contains a 24-word “public interest” exemption that critics said assuages their concern that the law would subject journalists to lengthy jail terms and large fines for doing their job.”

The brief article is here.

BVI’s Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act was first proposed in March 2014 in the aftermath of Offshore Leaks, which uncovered the identities of dozens of owners of anonymous BVI companies. The proposal included steep prison sentences for journalists who worked with leaked data, and created an international outcry among press freedomtax justice and anti-corruption advocates.

Although it was not signed into law by the governor at the time, ten days ago the Beacon reported that the bill had “re-appeared on an order paper for Tuesday’s House of Assembly sitting.”

According to official BVI statistics, there are 482.087 companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands (population 25.000) as of March 2014. BVI is ranked 20th on the Financial Secrecy Index.

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