Editor's Comment

Stiffen laws on cybercrime

THE proposed four bills aimed at protecting citizens from cybercrime could not have come at a better time.

We applaud the Ministry of Transport and Communication for coming up with the four bills, which will be used to control and punish the abuse of social media.
For some time now people have been complaining about the abuse of this new mode of communication, which has come as both a blessing and a curse.
Of course, it is a faster means of communication and an effective tool for social mobilisation.
It can also be used for sharing important information.
But in Zambia social media has become more a curse than a blessing.
Some online publications have been allowing uncensored comments in which innocent people, including those in national leadership, are targets of the vilest of insults.
Some of the comments are, in fact, outright incitement to crime and in normal circumstances the perpetrators would be arrested and prosecuted.
But the perpetrators feel protected because they remain anonymous.
They know that the victims of their vitriol, especially public figures, do not have the means and time to defend themselves from the attacks and falsehoods.
Another form of social media that has been abused with impunity is Facebook.
Instead of posting constructive information which can educate, inform and encourage others, people with depraved minds have used the platform to steal from others, defame, bully and frighten those who do not share their views and beliefs.
In some countries governments have been forced to rightfully block some of these platforms to protect innocent citizens.
Then there is WhatsApp on which some people have formed groups with sinister motives.
These platforms are being used to commit crime such as swindling people out of their hard-earned cash and sexual assault.
But what is worse is that social media is also being used to undermine those who are in power.
False information is circulated and shared as truth, whose aim is to vilify those in government and incite citizens to rise against them.
Surely no government would allow such high levels of lawlessness.
Over time, the abusers of social media have developed the misguided belief that the government is impotent, that it does not have the capacity to curtail their criminal activities in cyber space.
But Minister of Transport and Communication Brian Mushimba has some bad news for them.
He announced last weekend that in the next sitting of Parliament he will table the Cyber Crime Bill, the Electronic Commerce Bill and Data Protection Bill.
Mr Mushimba said once passed into laws the four bills will have enough teeth to bite the abusers of social media.
We hope so.
“All the four bills are going to enhance the existing tools in terms of making sure there is credibility and protection that needs to be there in [cyber] space,” Mr Mushimba said.
He continued: “We cannot have people abuse and insult others.
But the minister was quick to alley any fears that the coming laws are aimed at clamping down on any individuals or groups of people.
As expected some people, including those running briefcase political parties, partisan chiefs and civil society organisations with narrow agendas, will try to mislead members of the public to gain cheap political mileage.
They will accuse the State of all sorts of imaginary motives when all the ministry is trying to do is create an environment in which social media serves as a catalyst for personal and national development.
As the minister explained, free expression, especially on social media, has limits and many countries including those in the developed world, have various laws to regulate it.
We appeal to members of Parliament to support these bills because they will benefit the country.


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