Suspended Nauru MP worried by tougher criminal code
Former Nauru justice minister says latest changes to the criminal code merely to serve the government's political agenda.
The suspended Nauru opposition says changes to the criminal code rushed through parliament this week are simply to serve a political agenda.
The government has made any comment likely to cause emotional stress or threaten public order an offence punishable with a jail term of up to seven years.
The justice minister, David Adeang, told parliament freedom of speech has become tainted with somewhat vile and tasteless words.
To counter this the code now prohibits the publishing of statements or material deemed to intimidate, harass or cause emotional stress to a person.
The amendment also makes it an offence if statements are likely to threaten national defence and public order.
Last week, Nauru blocked Facebook, saying it was part of efforts to stop child pornography.
Last year, five MPs were expelled from parliament indefinitely..
One of those is former justice minister Matthew Batsiua, and Don Wiseman asked him if he fears he could be jailed for speaking to the media on this issue.
MATTHEW BATSIUA: My question to listeners: Can this be labelled by the government as an attempt to create or rouse up political hatred towards them and if so, if that is the view of the government, does that mean that I can face charges that can lead to me being jailed for seven years? To me it does nothing to help Nauru progress. It seems to be a law that has been brought in in a very superficial manner to serve a political agenda. I am very concerned where we are going with all this. It doesn't provide any clear direction in terms of what people can say or cannot say because it seems to be a very broad brush approach to public debate on political issues.
DON WISEMAN: Although at a reading you could say that it says, don't say anything that could be construed as criticism of the government?
MB: That is right and to me that's the concern because they have now put into our laws that it is basically illegal to criticise the government because it could be misconstrued as trying to generate political hatred. I have been in this political arena for over ten years, President Waqa has been in the political arena for over then years and so has minister Adeang. And we all know what we sign up to when we enter public office, we know that we are putting ourselves up for scrutiny. And it just comes with the territory, you cannot win every person over but you can always try to do your best. But you have to accept, once you are in public office then you are fair game and you are not able to win every person over and that is just a fact. And it is unbelievable that they would try to put in laws that will curtail criticism because as far as I am concerned the game or the business of politics, criticisms, scrutiny, debate is all part of it.
DW: In terms of Nauru doing something about what you say are these peculiar laws being pushed through an unvetted parliament. What can be done about it?
MB: There is a growing concern that is ever present now on Facebook people wanting to take action to do a rally and pressure parliament through that way. But there are very serious contemplation's of that .
DW: Except people don't have access to Facebook.
MB: Yes well that was stalled quite significantly when the ban went on and it also doesn't help at the moment because there is no petrol on the island so people can't really get around. But there is still the looming presence that there is going to be a rally and we will see what happens from there.
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