EU, US: cybercrime law stomping on rights

Tanzania's presidential spokesman defended two bills, which activists claim are 'draconian,' and says President Kikwete will sign them into law 'soon.' Photo: Daniel Hayduk

The first uses of the cybercrime law during last month’s election may infringe on human rights, the international community has warned. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

The first uses of the contentious cybercrime law during elections could constitute human rights infringement, the international community has told Tanzania.

“The first cases of application raise concern in view of their potential infringement of fundamental freedoms,” says a joint statement issued by 16 international delegations including the European Union and the United States.

“The Heads of Mission are concerned about the recent arrest of members of staff of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) and confiscation of key technical outfits, reportedly motivated by section 16 of the cybercrimes act,” says the statement.

Despite being accredited by the National Electoral Commission, three dozen LHRC workers compiling election observations were were arrested in a raid on October 29 and have been charged under the cybercrime law.

Eight people working at an opposition exit-polling center have also been charged for publishing ‘inaccurate and unverified data’ on Facebook, Twitter, and the party’s election management system, which is reportedly an internal database.

“Heads of Mission call on the Government of Tanzania to assure that the implementation of the cybercrime act does not lead to infringement of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly the freedoms of expression and association and the right to participate in genuine elections.”

Over 50 human rights groups and civil groups spoke out against the cybercrime bill before it was signed into law in April.

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