Cyber Bill welcome, must not be abused

By Staff reporter | 10 Oct 2019 at 23:05hrs
CABINET on Tuesday approved the Cyber Security Bill, marking the first step towards its promulgation. Such a law is not unique to Zimbabwe, and has been introduced in many jurisdictions to govern the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), inhibit and punish their abuses by unscrupulous individuals and organisations.

The law must be just and should be used to broaden the safe use of ICTs to deepen information dissemination and enhance democracy. The ICTs have become agents of both social and economic development in this globalised world and it's good that Zimbabwe embraces them.

The Cyber Bill, as we were told after the 35th Cabinet meeting, would seek to among other things provide for penalties for transmission of data messages inciting violence and damage to property and for measures to address the production and dissemination of racist and xenophobic material.

It also provides for penalties for persons who generate, distribute or broadcast data concerning an identifiable person knowing it to be false and intending to cause psychological or economic harm, curbing transmission of pornographic material and data protection with due regard to constitutional rights and public interest.

The intended law also seeks to protect citizens against cyber-bullying and harassment, the admissibility of electronic evidence for such offences, establishment of a Data Security Centre and a Data Protection Authority and provision, approval of codes of conduct and ethics to be observed by all categories of data controllers.

In essence, the Bill advocates for the use of ICTs for more constructive purposes.

From the face of it, the Bill sounds perfect and the justification for its introduction is not only instructive, but sagacious.

Fears abound, however, that the government may use the law to snoop on citizens. Unfortunately, we have a paranoid government, which over the past three decades has tried to control information dissemination to create presidential papacy.

This is one of the Bills that people must scrutinise thoroughly and debate vigorously before it is passed by Parliament and assented to by the president.

The people need to be governed by just laws that enhance dissemination of developmental information aimed at always improving statecraft.

ICTs abuse must be curbed to protect citizens but the proposed law should not give spooks carte blanche to violate citizens' privacy and the right to speak out their minds as long as they don't break the law and as long as they are not agents of anarchy.



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