LOBAMBA, 28.10.20: The Editors Forum Eswatini has met with a House of Assembly Portfolio Committee to protest a number of new censorship measures that will be imposed on the media in three new Bills presented by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.
The Forum, represented by Secretary General Jabu Matsebula and Deputy Chairman Martin Dlamini submitted to a House Committee chaired by Mfanawenkhosi Dlamini and composed of chairpersons of the Computer Crime And Cybercrime Bill, 2020, The Electronic Communications And Transactions and the Data Protection Bill, 2020. The meeting was at the House of Parliament on Thursday 28th October 2020.
The Bills were submitted with a certificate of urgency as the government says it is under pressure to conform with regional requirements to strengthen cyber security. They provide for fines of up to E15 million fines ($1million) or 15 years in jail for unauthorised downloading of computer data and up to E10 million ($7million) for unlawful access to computer equipment.
The Forum submitted that the law is open for political abuse to intimidate and punish journalists and whistleblowers. The Forum also expressed alarm at provisions of the Bills that assign power to the Eswatini Communications Commission to regulate media content.
The Committee Chair promised to submit the Editors Forum submissions to the full House of Parliament for consideration during the open debate of the 3 Bills. Tensions are high in Eswatini due to a growing number of online newspapers and social media posts that are upsetting to the status quo. The is mounting pressure for action to crack down on views that are deemed critical. The Forum is concerned that the news media will be caught in the middle .