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That Cyber Crime Law!

That Cyber Crime Law!

Despite wide-ranging controversy surrounding the enactment of a Cyber Crime Law, the legislative process has almost reached its final stage, having passed through the third reading in Parliament with a full house endorsing it.

Sounding a note of caution, the Hon Speaker of Parliament required that the final text of the bill be laid on his desk not later than one week of the third reading on 23rd June 2021 to ensure that it carries what had been passed in the House. The Hon Speaker is indeed keen to avoid the incidence of error or deliberate integration of content that has nothing to do with the bill.

One key contention of the journalists about the bill is the title of the bill, calling it ‘Cyber Crime’ rather than ‘Cyber Security’, which gives the impression that the profession continues to be criminalized by Law.

Another major concern raised by the media is that of the sweeping powers given to the minister in prescribing punishment for defaulters as well as the area of cyber bullying, which essentially constrained journalists from effectively and traditionally discharging their duty.

Indeed, there is a fine line between cybercrime and cyber security; while the latter is geared towards protecting critical infrastructure from cyber threat and or attack, a crime is a criminal act, and journalists should not be categorized as criminals in executing their responsibility. After all, there is a law for defamation, which citizens can lean on when they deem their personality and or integrity is under unfair attack by the media.

It should be stated that in a corrupt society like ours, it is obvious that those in authority are inclined to welcome draconian media legislations on the pretext that they are victims of vilification by the media.

We are in no way against the need to protect our cyber space from unethical hacking or cyber threat to critical infrastructure. Our worry is to not recycle the criminal libel that had ravaged press freedom for decades since it was crafted into our law books by the then SLPP government with a motive to silent opposing views.

In fact, there is a school of thought that indeed, the much trumpeted Cyber Crime bill has the inimical objective of clamping down on critical voice.

We are therefore urging law makers to ensure that unwanted and undemocratic provisions in the bill be purged before receiving presidential assent to become law.

Finally, we are worried that the Minister failed to complement the cybercrime law with a data protection law to guard against undue and unlawful invasion of privacy. We strongly frown against this deliberate act of the Minister, as the data protection law should have either been a precursor to the cyber bill, or simultaneously passed. We are also very disappointed that our law makers went ahead and passed the cyber bill without data protection!

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