Following President Peter Mutharika’s recent remarks against the country’s use of social media, government has disclosed it has drafted new cyber laws to regulate social media in the country.
Information minister Jappie Mhango has said a bill that will be coming up in parliament soon to regulate the social media provides for stiff punishment for abusers of the media.
In a guided and calculated interview with state controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), Mhango said the aim of the bill is to ensure that people use the social media as a melting point to discuss developmental issues.
The minister and the interviewer were indirectly suggesting Malawi Congress Party (MCP) publicist Jessie Kabwila, MCP legislator Peter Chakwantha and MCP member Ulemu Msungama currently answering treason and sedition charges, abused Whatsapp chat facility when they discussed a wide range of political, economic and social issues.
“This is a big concern to us. A lot of people are abusing Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and others,” said Mhango in the MBC interview.
Opposition members of parliament have on several occasions made scathing attacks on the tax payers funded broadcaster, the MBC of working for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as its propaganda radio leaving out its role as a public broadcaster.
Mutharika recently revealed his concern over the use of social media in his southern African country, saying Malawi was becoming too reliant on social media.
A picture of Mutharika falling at a tree planting ceremony in Lilongwe went viral on Facebook and Twitter a few weeks ago, with people speculating he was ill.
The Nyasa Times reported recently that Mutharika urged citizens not to embrace negativity and to stop spreading false rumours about leaders and other citizens.
The President used the example of a recent case whereby social media users grasped onto a false story about a banker in Bangwe Township who was believed to have killed his spouse.
“I heard the story of the banker who was said to have killed his wife and it was just a lie,” Mutharika was quoted as saying.
The government spokesman stressed the need for a new law to regulate social media to curb malicious and defamatory messages.
He said in the present era of internet and social media, criminal provisions for online defamation has become more relevant.
Mhango said people should not be given free hand to run malicious campaign on social media and a law should is necessary to curb the “misuse” of social media.
How much the upcoming laws could come handy in ensuring that contamination via social media platforms is kept to the minimum while at the same time dealing with cyber criminals—both real and imaginary—is yet to be seen, but one thing that is almost certain is that the government is setting itself a mammoth, if not insurmountable, task.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :