MPs blamed for delay in fake news law

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Attorney General George Savvides has accused MPs of dragging their feet in approving a bill that would clamp down on fake news and threats on social media.

Appearing before the House last week to present his office’s budget for 2023, Savvides argued that while swearing at someone on the street is a criminal offence, threatening someone’s life online is not.

“The legislative framework is weak. It is your fault as you have had a relevant bill in front of you for years without voting in it,” fired Savvides.

The Attorney General said that life threats had been posted online on several occasions, targeting politicians and other public figures.

Savvides said he himself, and his assistant Savvas Angelides, have also been on the receiving end of an online threat against “but no one could do anything about it”.

“Life threats are a daily phenomenon which has got out of hand.

“Social media have brought about benefits to society, but we cannot allow anyone to hide behind a keyboard and swear and make threats against people.”

Ruling DISY MP Nicos Tornaritis told Savvides that the matter would be taken up before the House breaks for the Christmas holidays.

He noted that the House would be looking to ensure that the legislation brought to the plenary would be in line with human rights and not oppress the freedom of speech.

Savvides was asked about the result of a probe commissioned by the Legal Services into the notorious black ‘spy van’ case, but he said the report’s content was confidential.

Opposition MPs had targeted the Attorney-General’s office for dropping the charges against Israeli defendants whose company was involved in the spy van case, which had allegedly tested out spyware on unsuspecting citizens.

Tal Dilian, an Israeli ex-intelligence officer and CEO of WiSpear Systems Limited, owned the van, and Shahak Avraham Avni, the owner of security services provider NCIS, a company housed in the same building as WiSpear.

Dilian’s name was placed on PEGA’s (a European Parliament committee looking into an international spyware scandal) list of people of interest.

“We have communicated to PEGA that this case (the spy van) does not fall into their scope, as it does not tie into the surveillance scandal.

“I don’t want them to think we are hiding something, but this is what the laws dictate us to do,” said Savvides.