Kikwete set to sign controversial Cybercrimes bill into law


DEFIANT: widespread condemnation notwithstanding, President Jakaya Kikwete will sign Cybercrimes bill into law

DAR ES SALAAM-President Jakaya Kikwete is set to sign the highly controversial Cybercrimes bill into law despite enormous opposition from critics who argue it will severely curb Internet freedoms and intimidate web users into self-censorship.

One of the most controversial elements of the law mandates people who delete data, or send unsolicited messages online be given much longer jail sentences than those who commit libel in traditional media.

Philip Filikunjombe, a legal officer at the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority supports the clause.

“The provision criminalises individuals or institutions initiating transmission of unwanted messages. Imagine you are busy waiting for an important phone call, apparently you get another call from mobile operators promoting a service,” Filikunjombe told editors forum in Dar es Salaam on Thursday adding “the law is to protect victims against such circumstances.”

Another controversial element of the law, section 44 (1) allows a search engine provider not be liable for search results and yet the law requires the government to monitor online activity.

Said Kalunde, Senior State Attorney, Attorney General Chambers said the law was designed in a ‘good faith’ considering the ever increasing misuse of the internet to commit a range of crimes both with Tanzania and beyond.

He says the law is meant to protect confidentiality and integrity of individuals and institutions.

Kalunde cites reports that estimate 556 million people fall victim to cybercrimes annually, that is  approximately 1.5 million people daily. He stressed “it’s not too late for the country to adopt the legislation.”

Ally Simba, Acting Director of Information Communication Technology in the Ministry of Communications Science and Technology said the law, recently passed by the legislative assembly is in concurrence with international standards.

He maintained the controversial legislation is similar to the East African Community legal framework on cyber law (2008), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union convention on cyber laws (2012).

This legislation has infuriated proponents of censorship-free internet, it has mainly drew cricism from the media community in the country.

Deodatus Balile, Editor for Jamuhuri newspaper was concerned with police officers being allowed to search personal data, questioning their capacities to use various computer programs.

Peter Nyanje, also an Editor said the bill was rushed through the legislature leaving out input of stakeholders like the media.

Nyanje pointed out “the media fraternity was not involved and yet you (the government) want us to help you educate the people about the law, this is totally unfair as you needed to involve us in the first place.”