ICT, Postal and Courier Services minister Supa Mandiwanzira was recently quoted in the media as saying he had submitted the draft Computer Crime and Cyber Security Bill to the Attorney General’s office and had upgraded it in line with Southern African Development Community (SADC) guidelines.
ZimRights acknowledges that the promulgation of cybercrime and security laws has been come a standard practice in many jurisdictions to curb the commission of crime on the cyberspace.
However, there is need to be explicit that the Computer Crime and Cyber Security Bill should not be used as an excuse to infringe on human rights, and this must be acknowledged and understood by the authorities, even at the drafting stage.
ZimRights, therefore, draws the attention of the ICT, Postal and Courier Services Minister, and the government to the United Nations’ non-binding, but informative resolution A/HRC/32/L.20 of July 1, 2016, on internet as a human right and digital rights.
The resolution “affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice.”
Thus, there should not be any attempt, whether in drafting or applying the Cyber Bill should it come into force, in the later part of the year, of using it as a weapon to cut down on people’s basic freedoms and human rights.
This is because, apart from policing cybercrimes and enforcing security, the government of Zimbabwe remains with an obligation to protect, promote and observe fundamental human rights offline and online.
Of late, the authorities have brought a litany of legal cases upon citizens using insult laws to punish them for exercising their civil and political rights, including the right to free expression, on social media platforms.
Equally in this connection, ZimRights is concerned that the Cyber Bill, both in its naming and intention, appears to be inclined towards punishing cybercrimes, without promoting internet access as a basic human right as envisaged by the UN’s non-binding resolution.