Home Press Freedom EDITORS FORUM POSITION ON INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION BILLS 2020

EDITORS FORUM POSITION ON INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION BILLS 2020

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LOBAMBA                                                                                 28 OCTOBER 2020

We wish to register a specific interest in the Bills listed as 1 and 3 below, which even as we understand their purpose is guided by engineering and technical concerns, have serious implications on limiting basic freedoms and civil rights. 

1. The Computer Crime And Cybercrime Bill, 2020

2. The Electronic Communications and Transactions 

3. The Data Protection Bill, 2020

For the record, we thank the August House of Parliament for accommodating the hearings within the constraints of the certificate of urgency with which these Bills were submitted. By so doing, you honoured your mandate as representatives of the people and awareness of the importance of consulting the people for their views on laws that will affect them. 

  1. We are a civil rights organization with a significant interest in the issues before the Honourable Portfolio Committee of Parliament.
  2. While we understand the urgency to enact these Bills, we believe that laws that impact on civil liberties should be considered as carefully as possible, certainly not under the pressure of certificates of urgency.
  3. We are concerned that provisions of some of these Bills violate Fundamental Human Rights, violate our own national constitution and present an open invitation to damaging international scorn and criticism of our country and its image. 
  4. Specifically, some aspects of the Bills violate Chapter lll (24) of the constitution in that they seek to limit access to information.
  5. We are concerned that some provisions criminalize information and provide for fines that are so high that they offer no option at all, and believe they are therefore intended at sending citizens to jail.
  6. The Bills as they stand will have a detrimental effect on education and development. We live in a world controlled by information and communications technologies (ICTs). It is therefore in the interests of our people that they are fully empowered to learn and fully understand ICTS so that they can participate in the global economy. We urge Parliament to encourage our Government to promote a culture of learning and understanding.
  7. We are concerned that the spirit behind the Bills presented before the House of Parliament is a desire to create fear and to discourage access by emaSwati to digital resources, thereby keep them backward and prevent learning and knowledge our youth especially need to better prepare for participation in the global economy.
  8. We admit that laws are necessary for the protection of citizens and their institutions and to prevent abuse of ICTs. We recommend the Model SADC Law on cybercrime that we attach. 
  9. Corruption is one of the leading problems of our country. Fighting corruption, which is a cancer to society, requires brave men and women to take the risk and expose corrupt acts, often performed by people in positions of power. We are concerned that the effect of these Bills will be to enable incriminating corruption information to be concealed in computors and be safe from those that try to expose. We are aware that there is already an outcry in this country at the lack of protection for Whistle-blowers, who risk severe punishment for exposing corruption.

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