Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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Of draconian laws and ill-advised ministers

Business

Lesotho has done it again in the making of draconian laws which have become synonymous with the land we all call home. This time around it is the Ministry of Communications Science and Technology that has crafted a worse than foreign Computer Crime and Cyber Security Bill 2021.

The bill looks like it was taken of a scrap paper sheet picked up from a dump whence documents from countries with worse currencies than ours are available.

Over and above the fact that the bill proposes anti-media freedom provisions, that at best can be associated with outer-space aliens since they are unheard of, it proposes super ridiculously exorbitant fees and fines for those found guilty thereof.

For instance, it proposes that someone will be charged as high a figure as M15million or 25 years or both.

These are some of the issues that have concerned the Lesotho Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Lesotho) who have rightly said that the bill is not in touch and in tune with best practices and internationally acceptable standards.

According to the National Director of MISA Lesotho Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, the new bill designed by the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology is only meant to barricade the media fraternity a freedom of expression and that the said law seems to have been taken from other countries which do not answer to the culture of Lesotho and journalism practice.  

Ntsukunyane said it is not only shaming but also disappointing to learn that the Institution was not sensitised about the bill until the matter was addressed before the National Assembly’s Portfolio committee on the Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information cluster.

He echoed that on March 30, 2021, they issued a statement after recognising that there was a document called a Computer Crime and Cyber Security Bill 2021 that was submitted to the parliament by the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology.

He said the other concerning issue is disregarding other laws that exist in the country such as the Criminal Procedure and Evidence act of 1981, Penal Code of 2010 and the Constitution but the Computer Crime and Cyber Security Bill of 2021 births inconstant issues with other laws that precede the bill.

He continued that the same bill seems to sensor the media such as coercing journalists to reveal their sources. “There is a principle in journalism worldwide that a journalist cannot be forced to reveal their sources, but according to this law, it is a crime when a journalised is found to have published information they obtained does not want to reveal their sources. Through the courts of law that reporter or journalised is forced by law to explain how and where they have obtained their evidence,” he said.

The Computer Crime and Cyber Security Bill 2021 states that a person who intentionally without lawful excuse or justification obtains for himself or for another computer data which are not meant for him and which are special protected against unauthorised access, commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding M12, 000,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding seventeen years or both.

What makes a bad situation even worse is the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Keketso Sello justifying the ridiculous figures under the guise of their being meant to be deterrent to the commission of crime.

It also brings to the question how and who advises the ministers.

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