Under pressure Zambia shelves cybercrime Bills
Zambia’s government has withdrawn two controversial cybercrime Bills due to persistent pressure from critics who say the legislation will negatively impact the use of online platforms to seek, receive and share information.
According to a senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the government has shelved the Bills because of resistance from stakeholders, including opposition political parties, who have complained over the lack of engagement over drafting of the legislation.
The official confirmed that the Cyber Security and Cyber Crime Bill as well as the Data Protection Bill have been withdrawn, although this has not yet been official announced by the government.
The official said: “I can confirm to you that because of pressure, the government has withdrawn the Bills and so far, it’s not clear what the way forward is with regard to internet and social media regulation that the government really wants. The government seems to have been defeated by citizens on the Bills.”
In 2017, Zambia’s government, through the Ministry of Communications and Transport, announced plans to table the Bills in parliament, adding that they were intended to support the productive use of the internet and social media.
However, the Panos Institute of Southern Africa (PSAf) and the main opposition, the United Party for National Development (UPND), among others, opposed the Bills and said they would do the opposite of what government intended.
They urged the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology to reject the Bills.
Last week, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia chapter said cybercrime law formulation should be an all-inclusive legislative process.
MISA Zambia chairperson Hellen Mwale said: “In as much as the cyber laws such as the proposed Cybercrime and Cyber Security Bills of 2017 are meant to curtail bad practices on the internet, the same laws may end up infringing on citizens’ rights online if there is no digital right literacy to the public.”
Minister of Communications and Transport Mutotwe Kafwaya did not respond to media inquiries.