Contentious cybercrime bill quietly signed

The 'draconian' cybercrime  and says President Kikwete will sign them into law 'soon.' Photo: Daniel Hayduk

‘The law is there to monitor all social networks’ says Jamii Forums founder Maxence Melo of the new cybercrime law. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

Even as the international community cautioned President Jakaya Kikwete not to sign the controversial cybercrime bill last month, it turns out he had already done so.

On April 28, the European Union delegation head Filiberto Sebregondi had cautioned Kikwete to make ‘wise decisions’ and ‘maintain Tanzania’s track record of upholding freedom of information and opinion’ concerning the bill.

But it seems that Kikwete signed the bill five days earlier on April 25, according to Ally Simba of the Communications, Science and Technology ministry.

Simba made the announcement while being questioned on why the public was not being educated about the impending bill by a Parliamentary Committee on Infrastructure earlier this week .

“It was just [Tuesday] (May 5) when we got notification of the assent,” says Simba, adding that the ministry would now begin educating the public on the bill.

The cybercrime bill makes it an offense to make any “false, deceptive, misleading or inaccurate” statements online.

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.

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.

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 government has defended the bill, saying all countries have this law to defend against threats ’caused by technology.’

There is no word on if the statistics bill has also been signed into law.

Read more: Gov’t defends stats, cybercrime bills

Read more: ‘Draconian’ bill stuns rights groups

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