GOVERNMENT has amended the Computer Crime and Cybercrime Bill by introducing a section, which establishes a Computer and Cybercrime Management Centre meant to allow security personnel from the Central Intelligence Organisation to monitor citizens’ use of the internet.
The proposed legislation will impose stiff penalties for computer-related crimes such as the possession of pornographic material, which attracts a jail term of up to 10 years.
The draft Bill criminalises the possession of pornographic material even if it is for personal use. The proposed legislation, which has undergone many amendments, was introduced last year ostensibly to curb cybercrime although information communication technology (ICT) experts maintain that it was introduced to allow government to tighten its grip over the control of cyber space. The Bill also allows government to effectively spy on citizens.
The updated version of the controversial Bill, a copy of which the Zimbabwe Independent is in possession of, points out that state security minister shall in consultation with the finance minister establish the Computer and Cybercrime Management Centre, which will be headed by State Security deputy director-general.
The committee includes members drawn from ministries of defence, science and technology, justice, ZRP, prison services, National Prosecuting Authority, director-general of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and two representatives from ICT organisations.
The ICT experts have slammed criminalisation of pornography, saying that section should instead be replaced with the offence of violating a person’s computer system or breaching trust and sharing information over a computer system with the intention of causing harm in order to deal with the growing incidence of revenge pornography.
The Computer and Cybercrime Management Centre, according to the Bill, will: “Promote and co-ordinate activities focussed on improving cyber security by all stakeholders in the public and private sectors, provide guidelines to public and private sector stakeholders on matters relating to awareness, training, enhancing, investigating, prosecuting, combating cybercrime and managing cyber security threats.”
Digital Society of Zimbabwe co-ordinator Christopher Musodza said if government has to go ahead with passing such a Bill, human rights defenders should also be included in the committee in order to protect citizens and look at sections such as child pornography.
According to the Bill, a person who produces pornography for the purpose of its distribution through a computer system, offers or makes available any pornography through a computer system, distributes or transmits, procures any pornography or possesses any pornography in a computer system or on a computer data storage medium commits an offence and is liable, upon conviction, to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or both
The Bill also states that for a person who unlawfully and intentionally produces child pornography for the purpose of distribution through a computer system, possesses child pornography in a computer system or on a computer-data storage medium and knowingly obtains, accesses or procures child pornography through information communication technologies shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or both.
Any person who unlawfully makes pornography available to one or more children shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both.
A severe 20-year imprisonment will be charged for engaging in computer terrorist activities which the Bill does not clearly define and as such the CSOs have demanded that the severity of the penalty on terrorism activities begs that the offence be as strictly and clearly defined as possible in the Bill.-AMH