14 May 2015

Former Nauru magistrate says new laws a retrograde step

8:17 am on 14 May 2015

Nauru's former magistrate says the government's latest move to tighten laws in an effort to curb dissent is a worrying sign of the country's democracy further decaying.

The government on Tuesday amended the criminal code to make any comment deemed to cause emotional stress and threaten public order an offence punishable with up to seven years in jail.

In introducing the amendment, the Justice Minister David Adeang said freedom of speech has of late been tainted with somewhat vile and tasteless words.

Nauru's Justice Minister David Adeang

Nauru's Justice Minister David Adeang Photo: Supplied

But Peter Law, who was deported from the island last year, says the laws are an attempt to suppress free speech and is the latest in a series of worrying developments.

"I don't think you can regard it as a democracy when you've, since last year, they've indefinitely suspended their opposition so there's no dissent before parliament. And that's evidenced by this bill, there's no possibility for a significant proportion of this parliament to be represented or to bring the government into account."

Peter Law says in most criminal codes of this nature there is a clause that allows a defence of the public interest, which this legislation doesn't have.