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Parliament Passes Restrictive Cyber Security bill, Awaits Presidential Approval

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Parliament Passes Restrictive Cyber Security bill, Awaits Presidential Approval

Zimbabwe’s parliament has passed a controversial cybersecurity bill that gives authorities sweeping powers to tackle offences without any amendments.

The bill that has been criticised by several opposing voices particularly the media now awaits the president to assent into  law.

The latest legal document for cyber players has many contentious clauses, and digital players and human rights activists have on several times lobbied the  law makers to refine the document before passing it into law.

The Minister  of  ICT Postal and  Courier  Services Hon Muswere acceded to relook at Clauses 13, 17, 23 and 164 of the Bill with a view to amend them but refused to relook into the establishment of Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ)  as the  national data security  centre.

Some of the controversial clauses include Section 5 and 7 of the Bill that seek to establish the Postal & Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) as the Cybersecurity Centre and Data Protection Authority.

The clauses give POTRAZ authority over three sensitive roles and or bodies, that is, regulator of the telecommunications industry, the cybersecurity centre and the data protection authority.

In simple terms, POTRAZ has been given power to control data control in Zimbabwe thus defeating the purpose of separation of  powers.

Other clauses in the bill criminalizes general freedoms of Zimbabweans and media players in particular.

164C Transmission of false data message intending to cause harm Any person who unlawfully and intentionally by means of a computer or information system makes available, broadcasts or distributes data to any other person concerning an identified or identifiable person knowing it to be false with intend to cause psychological or economic harm shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 10 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

Section 164 criminalizes the sending of data messages to any person, group or the public with the intention to incite violence or damage of property.

The clause provides for the imposition of a fine not exceeding level 10 or imprisonment of up to five years, which has been argued to be excessive.

Speaking to the Zimbabwe Online Content Creators (ZOCC) chairperson Toneo Rutsito following the latest sad development in the ICT sector, he said:

“This is a very sad day for digital player in Zimbabwe as the cyber bill which is marred by controversial clauses has been passed into law. Its going to restrict the digital freedom and rights of players in the sector particularly the online content creators. Basically, the bill has officially criminalized journalism as profession.”

Part of the bill which many stakeholders did not agree with reads:

4B Cyber-bullying and harassment

Any person who unlawfully and intentionally by means of a computer or information system generates and sends any data message to another person, or posts on any material whatsoever on any electronic medium accessible by any person, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, threaten, bully or cause substantial emotional distress, or to degrade, humiliate or demean the person of another or to encourage a person to harm himself or herself, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 10 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

164C Transmission of false data message intending to cause harm Any person who unlawfully and intentionally by means of a computer or information system makes available, broadcasts or distributes data to any other person concerning an identified or identifiable person knowing

it to be false with intend to cause psychological or economic harm shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 10 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

164D Spam

Any person who intentionally and without lawful excuse—

(a) uses a protected computer system to relay or retransmit multiple electronic mail messages, with the intent to deceive or mislead recipients or any electronic mail or internet service provider as to the origin of such messages; or

(b) materially falsifies header information in multiple electronic mail messages and initiates the transmission of such messages shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 5 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or to both such fine and such imprisonment

164E Transmission of intimate images without consent

(1) Any person who unlawfully and intentionally by means of a computer or information system makes available, broadcasts or distributes a data message containing any intimate image of an identifiable person without the consent of the person concerned causing the humiliation or embarrassment of such person shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 10 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) “intimate image” means a visual depiction of a person made by any means in which the person is nude, the genitalia or naked female breasts are exposed or sexual acts are displayed.

164F Production and dissemination of racist and xenophobic materia

When not expelling tech wisdom, Rutendo feeds on good stories that strike on all those emotional chords. She loves road trips, a good laugh, and interesting people.

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