Under Jamaica's new cybercrime laws, activist La Toya Nugent was arrested in March 2017 for publicly naming alleged perpetrators of sexual violence via social media. On May 17, 2017, the country's Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropped all charges against her, making Nugent a free woman, and vindicating her controversial Tambourine Army, a new movement led by women and survivors of sexual violence who are sharing their harrowing experiences, both online and in public.
The news broke on social media almost immediately. On Facebook, writer Annie Paul announced:
Breaking news!! DPP has dropped all 3 charges against Latoya Nugent under cyber crimes act!! #Tambourine!!
Twitter was also on the ball:
Charges dropped against Tambourine Army co-founder #TambourineArmy https://t.co/DtQvIqRzNl
— Jherane (@Jherane_) May 17, 2017
Twitter user Rachel Mordecai commented:
As it should be! But might not have been. Good news! #TambourineArmy https://t.co/WoyYkzi7lq
— RMordecai (@RachelMordecai) May 17, 2017
Nugent had always maintained her innocence against the charges, which were summarized as the “use of a computer for malicious communication”. From the outset, many legal experts felt that the charges could not stick because the legislation left sufficient room for interpretation when it comes to unlawful or “malicious” communication.
In an offline context, the Tambourine Army's approach of naming and shaming perpetrators of sexual violence through its hashtag #SayTheirNames would most likely be classified as defamation. But in 2013, Jamaica reformed its defamation regime to be treated as a matter of civil, not criminal, law. So basically, if someone is convicted of defamation in Jamaica, they can be made to pay damages, but not be given a prison sentence.
As shared on Twitter, the country's DPP explained her discontinuation of the case:
UPDATE: DPP Llewelyn has discontinued prosecution of Activist Latoya Nugent o/c Stella on all 3 charges. Not a viable prosecution says DPP.
— Abka Fitz-Henley (@AbkaFitzHenley) May 17, 2017