Legislators on Wednesday sent back a comprehensive Electronic Transaction Bill, that would fight cyber crime, regulate electronic money transactions and regulate online publications, among others if passed into law.
Most MPs praised the government for the Bill which they said is very comprehensive but needed technical input from the Media and Communications committee, the Budget and Finance committee and Legal committee.
The members of parliament also advised the government to consult and seek input from experts like computer experts, media experts and others.
If passed, for instance online publication Nyasa Times and its editor and other online editors would be compelled to register so that they take responsibility for defamation and character assassination cases.
Some members of parliament also said the regulated online publications would now attract massive advertisements as is the case with traditional newspapers as they will now have legal framework which is lacking now.
One legislator explicitly singled out Nyasa Times during the debate of the bill, saying although it has accurate and factual editorial content, comments under stories are always defamatory and the injured party would now be able to take action.
Under the Electronic Transactions Bill, the DPP led government is seeking to crack down on content of the internet including social media platforms such as Facebook, Instragram and Twitter.
The Bill seeks to tighten control of bloggers, online media, especially news websites, by making online news editors and social media commentators of such content liable for any publications which might threaten public order and national security.
But the Bill has not specified what the meaning of “public order and national security” as well as “facilitate technical restriction to conditional access to online communication” when it comes to transmission of online public information.
There are fears that in a bid to “protect public order and security” as stated in Section 28 (1) (e), government could shut down online social media platforms such as Facebook, Instragram and Twitter using such legislation.
The bill also seeks to employ cyber inspectors, among others to check cyber crime and protect children from pornography and unnecessary stocking.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :