UNDERSTANDING THE IMPLICATIONS OF PASSED BILL ON CYBERCRIME
To the government, the just-passed Cybercrime Bill is very good law aimed at curbing the increase in Internet associated vices, but to section of lawmakers, press freedom stakeholders and bloggers, this is a draconian law that shouldn’t be allowed in a democratic state like Tanzania.
Just few days after it was passed by the Parliament, today, The Citizen brings you an analysis of twelve key factors to watch, because you may soon find yourself going to prison—simply for receiving what the state calls illegal information on your mail.
One, Section 7 (2b) states that the receiver of information deemed illegal shall be sued. For instance, if someone you know or even a number you don’t know sends you ‘illegal’ image on WhatsApp, you will be criminally liable for it and will therefore be punished!
Two, Section 21(1) requires that all Internet service providers give all particulars of their clients to the State whenever the latter demands such private information. In other words, this law allows the State to police on the citizens via the Internet.
Three, Section 8 states that it will be an offence to publish online “confidential” government documents, even if such publication is done for national interest. These days, all over the world, major scandals and abuses by State officials are leaked and published on line by whistle-blowers and activists.
The advantage of the online platform is that it isn’t easy for the State to control. But after the Bill becomes law, there will be no more online whistle-blowing!
Four, Section 14 states that publication of any image deemed indecent can earn the “offender” up to 10 years in jail or a fine of Sh30 million. The problem with this law is that it doesn’t clearly define what pornographic material is. That means what one could take as just a sexy selfie, posted on Instagram can lead one to 10 years behind bars.
Five, Section 23 states that if convicted, the offender will go to jail for not less than one year for causing another person emotional distress and trauma. While those who inflict such sufferings deserve to be behind bars, the problem though, is how to determine what kind of image or story can cause emotional distress to another person and what cannot. Because anything negative is likely to hurt the culprit, the best thing to do be safe especially if the culprit is a powerful figure, is not to publish anything.
Six, you will notice that the minimum sentence and fine in most sections is indicated as “not less than”. This means that people will go to jail for life for most offences or pay tonnes of money in fine because there is no maximum number of years and amount of money indicated under the this Bill.
Seven, we see a lot of Nelson Mandelas, Julius Nyereres, Che Guevaras, Steven Kanumbas, Osama bin Ladens and even Barack Obamas active online. But they are none of these powerful figures! Bad news is that this law has no provision for using pseudonyms or fake names. This means that one can create an account using your name and photo he/she downloaded online, post criminally offensive material and let you face the music.
Eight, it is the government through the minister concerned to determine which information is true or and which is false. But think about it this way: even in the escrow, EPA and countless other scandals, ministers responsible had insisted on the “truth”, but their truth was soon proved to the contrary. If this law was in place before, it means many who “lied” that corruption was involved these matters could have ended in jail.
Nine, according to Section 22, if you post something online and later deletes or improves it by editing it; you will be guilty of tampering with evidence. This means your postings and profiles will be static because someone will be watching and wants them to remain that way.
Ten, police officer commanding a station anywhere in the country can order you to surrender your phone, laptop, your private email and chats without a court order.
Eleven, in Section 31 (3a), the law states that the officers who took your belongings will give you the list of the items taken “as soon as practicable”. That can mean one or two weeks or even a month or a year.
Twelve, according to Sections 31 to 35 and 39 to 45, if you are a blogger or online service provider, and you saw an offensive publication and removed it while preparing to report it as this law requires, the officer can at the same time visit your premises and confiscate your equipment—because this law allows such action.
In this situation, simply because you were in the process to report an offensive publication, but you were caught in the middle, you can be the prime suspect—facing imprisonment if found guilty.
Source: The Citizen