Tanzania’s presidential spokesman says President Jakaya Kikwete will sign the new statistics and cybercrime bills into law ‘soon’ and denied that the bills would infringe on personal freedoms.
“There is no country that does not have this law to protect and address cybercrime challenges,” says director of presidential communications Salva Rweyemamu.
“We must ensure the nation is protected from this new threat, caused by technology,” says Rweyemamu.
Activists — including over 50 human rights groups and civil groups — have roundly criticized the bills, saying they violate human rights and make already draconian laws even worse.
The cybercrime bill cracks down on illegal access, interception, interference, espionage, pornography and makes it an offense to make any “false, deceptive, misleading or inaccurate” statements online.
Lied about your age on Tinder? Get ready for a “fine not less than three million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not less than six months or to both.”
Maxence Melo, director of popular online hangout Jamii Forums says it’s a sign that the government wants to stifle public conversation and debate.
“The law is there to monitor all social networks,” says Melo.
Many Tanzanians will fall afoul of the cybercrime bill, says Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDS) country coordinator Onesmo Olengurumwa, but adds the statistics bill is also very dangerous to Tanzania’s development.
The statistics bill requires any researcher or journalist to first bring their data to the National Bureau of Statistics for verification prior to publication.
“This will just be another loophole for the government to tight-lip them,” says Olengurumwa, who says the bill will ‘erase and discourage’ independent research in the country.
Activists say they’re considering taking the president to court, if he decides to pass the bills into law.
Read more: ‘Draconian’ bill stuns rights groups