Malawi Govt moves to regulate on-line publications: Draft electronic legislation

Malawi government is considering enacting a f irst ever electronic legislation that among other issues would regulate on-line media.

According to the just completed draft legislation known as E-Bill, the move seeks to limit the freedom of speech by certain principles of public order as is the case with television, radio, or written press.

But government says the main objective of the project is to improve the quality, availability, affordability and utilisation of broadband internet in Malawi.

Malawi boasts several on-line publications including: Nyasa Times, Malawi Voice, Maravi Express, Malawi Economist, Maravi Post , Malawi Democrat, Malawi Sports News, Timve Magazine and the two dailies The Nation and Daily Times have also online version.

Bright Msaka: The proposed law seeks ‘legal responsibility of various actors’ with respect to the internet

According to section 23 of the draft bill the editors of on-line public communication services will be required disclose, among others, their names, residence and telephone number.

The bill demands that the persons editing online public communication services on a non-professional basis may, for ensuring their anonymity, solely make publicly available their name as well as the name and address of the intermediary service provider.

It says a qualification as editor of an on-line public communication service, does not exclude the qualification as intermediary service provider and both qualifications may apply to each activities exercised by the same person.

The draft bill describes operators as intermediary, who is any legal or physical person or any entity that provides electronic communications services consisting of the provision of access to communication networks, as well as storing or transmission of information through communication networks.

It further states that should these persons be subject to registration as required by law, the number of such registration and individuals involved should also be disclosed.

However, the draft bill says where such an intermediary has corporate name and registered office, telephone number, authorized share capital and registration number; such registration shall be disclosed as well.

The proposed law states that it would require the name of the corporate officer appointed as director of the publication of the on-line public communication service and, if applicable, the editor in chief.

“This information would also be required with particulars on the name, title, corporate name, address and telephone number of the intermediary service providers” reads the draft bill.

The 62 page draft bill is currently awaiting input from institutions and individuals before parliament passes it into law.

The E-Bill also hopes to provide the legal foundation to address internet-specific issues and challenges as well as protecting the public from cyber crime.

According to Office of President and Cabinet, the legislation will also guide in maintaining a secure space where data and intangible money could be stored, shared and legally and securely transferred.

The government hopes this piece of legislation will address the treatment of electronic evidence and develop an information society.

The draft legislation has 62 sections that deal with ten major areas, including legal recognition of electronic messages, which does not exist as such in the current legal framework in the country.

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