New Deputy calls for restraint online

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St Lawrence Deputy-elect Kirsten Morel said he believed the rise in negative comments could deter others from standing in the future. He called on Islanders to ‘attack and criticise the policies not the person’.

And Senator-elect Sam Mézec has revealed that he briefly considered not standing in the election as a direct result of abuse he receives online.

They made the comments as new States Members took part in an induction course during which they were warned that they may come in for criticism online.

Deputy-elect Morel said: ‘I haven’t yet been on the receiving end of any abuse. But it feels like it is the environment at the moment that there is a lot of possibly abusive messages on social media and I think that that in itself is a hindrance to the democratic process.

‘It is likely to make potential candidates think twice about standing.

‘My family were certainly concerned about the potential for abuse on social media when I told them I was considering standing. I want to appeal to the Island – don’t go down that route.’

Meanwhile, Senator-elect Mézec said that States Members needed to stand together in solidarity when colleagues receive such abuse – regardless of political beliefs.

He said: ‘I always knew I was going to run but there have been times when I have thought “What am I doing?”

‘When family members are getting abused by online trolls that is when it gets too much. There have been times where I thought “why should I bother?”

‘It does have an effect – I’m pretty thick-skinned but I know of potential candidates that have been put off.

‘The only thing we can do is show more solidarity to one another. When we [Reform Jersey] have seen others attacked – like Kristina Moore having a swastika drawn on one of her posters or Philip Ozouf receiving homophobic abuse – we have been the first to say this is unacceptable and we don’t tolerate it. It is very rare that we receive it in return.’

The new Assembly is due to be sworn in at the Royal Court on Friday 1 June.

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