Harare – The Government of The Republic of Zimbabwe has announced that it is not planning to ban Social Media in the near or distant future, but it instead wants to regulate cyber bullying and harassment through criminalizing things like leaking nudes, revenge porn, and defamation online.
In a statement released on the official website of the government, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Cde Supa Mandiwanzira moved to dispell the growing worries surrounding the introduction of the proposed ‘Cyber Security Bill, Electronic Transactions Bill and the Information Communication Technology Bill’ which triggered widespread fear.
According top information recieved by The Southern Daily’s local correspondents, the government planned to introduce cyber terrorism clauses in the bill, which would criminalize any form of criticism of the government online, with violators facing a minimum of 15 years in jail, about the same penalty as murder.
There were also widespread fears that the government intended to censor all Social Media, after a nationwide blackout earlier this week was suspected to have been ordered by the country’s Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.
See the full statement below.
INFORMATION Communication Technology (ICT) minister Supa Mandiwanzira yesterday said government had no intention to ban social media, but would instead introduce a raft of laws to penalise abusers of the facility.
Addressing members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on ICT, Mandiwanzira said the proposed Cyber Security Bill, Electronic Transactions Bill and the Information Communication Technology Bill, to be brought before Parliament soon, were meant to curb abuse of social media by individuals.
“Everybody in this country agrees that social media is an important aspect of our lives today and we cannot do without it because it improves the way we communicate and do business, and it is important for the development of our country, and no sane government or minister would say we should ban social media. It will be impossible,” he said.
“If anything, we want to promote the use of social media and penalise its abuse. For example, a model, Tafadzwa Mushunje, was hurt on social media when allegations were made that she injected a child with HIV, and the courts discovered that it was a lie. We have also seen an upsurge in revenge pornography, where people leak pictures and spread them on WhatsApp after breaking up and this undermines the dignity of other people.”
Mandiwanzira said President Robert Mugabe had also expressed concern over abuse of social media when he returned from his Japan trip, adding government then decided to regulate the use of that media.
He said section 61(5) of the Constitution, which provides for freedom of expression, clearly states that such freedoms should not hurt others maliciously and breach the rights of others through defamatory and revenge pornography.
Mandiwanzira dismissed social media reports claiming he had received kickbacks of $700 000 from beneficiaries of NetOne tenders.
“There is a danger if Parliament uses its privileges to circulate social media hogwash into national discussions. I am not corrupt, I have not benefited from NetOne, I do not intend to benefit from NetOne, and I have no deal with NetOne — I do not even supply them with tissue paper.”
He said those implicated in underhand deals at NetOne were being investigated and arrests would be made after a forensic audit by the Auditor-General’s Office.