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MISA celebrates withdrawal of draconian bill

Ntsoaki Motaung

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho has released a statement in which it applauds parliament for the withdrawal of the Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill of 2021.       

In statement released this week, MISA Lesotho lauds the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on the Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information Cluster for recommending for the withdrawal of the Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill of 2021 from the National Assembly, and allow for the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology to go back and revisit the controversial bill.

“MISA Lesotho applauds the Portfolio Committee on the Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information Cluster for a commendable decision to dismiss the bill that had sparked outrage among the Basotho populace, especially stakeholders who had not been consulted when the bill was promulgated by the ministry.

“This is the same bill that MISA Lesotho, in a media statement issued on March 31st 2021, expressed deep concern over no consultations made by the ministry with stakeholders before the bill was tabled in parliament by then Communications Minister Keketso Sello on March 23rd,” reads the statement in part.

According to MISA Lesotho the Committee further made the observations that, inclusion of media houses and telecommunications agencies is very crucial in the compilation of the Bill, and that all Security Agencies should be an integral part of the cybersecurity management and should be represented in the National Cybersecurity Advisory Council, the Bill deals with two major sets of crimes, computer Crimes and crimes of cyber security. The two sets of crimes are comprehensive enough to constitute two legal frameworks and combination of two sets of crimes may lead to a law that is vague and difficult to implement.

“Based on the findings, the Committee has since recommended for the National Assembly that “the Minister responsible for Communications currently Tšoinyana Samuel Rapapa be afforded an opportunity to withdraw the said Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill, 2021 for the Minister to revisit the Bill”.

“On June 7th 2021, MISA Lesotho was presented with an opportunity to present our submission on the Bill before the said parliamentary portfolio committee…” MISA Lesotho said. 

Among the anomalies presented by the Bill, the institute noted that the legislation would have been a vague conglomerate with unclear descriptions as to inter alia, illegal access which would have given law enforcement agencies during implementation, unwarranted powers to an extent that they infringe on freedom of expression of opinion enjoyed by members of society as access to information ordinarily may be deemed as illegal.

“The Bill does not define a child so that the boundaries to access to internet and dirty material in terms of age are well-known, the Bill only limits the channels through which the intimate messages are conveyed to computer or other computer software. Due to advances in the communication sphere, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are largely being used to communicate these intimate messages and they go viral once sent, penalties for wrongdoing, which the Bill metes out are not proportionate to the crimes committed. There is no clear criteria on how those penalties were determined,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Portfolio Committee on the Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information Cluster presented their report on the bill this week. 

The Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill, 2021 was tabled before the House on the 23rd March, 2021 by the Honourable Minister of Communications, Science and Technology. 

According to the report the Bill was referred to the Portfolio Committee on the Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information Cluster for consideration and scrutiny in terms of Standing Order No. 51(5).

“Based on the mentioned observations and concerns, the Committee recommends that the Minister responsible for Communications be afforded an opportunity to withdraw the said Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill, 2021 for the Minister to revisit the Bill,” said the committee in the report

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