SENIOR STAFF WRITER
THE MDC Alliance has slammed the government’s plans to fast-track the Cyber Bill, which will punish those deemed to have abused social media or peddled falsehoods against the State and citizens once it becomes law.
This comes against the backdrop of government plans to also introduce the Patriotic Act — a law which it says would promote patriotism among Zimbabweans.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, MDC Alliance deputy spokesperson Clifford Hlatywayo said the Cyber Bill was yet more proof of the “worsening trajectory of misplaced priorities” within the government.
“Social media or new media is the mode of communication for the majority of citizens not only in Zimbabwe, but the world over.
“Freedom of choice or expression is a constitutional right. No one under the earth must have a ticket to abuse other people.
“The people’s party — MDC Alliance — will stand with the citizens as this Zanu PF proposed law undermines the people’s liberties,” Hlatywayo said.
The MDC Alliance’s reaction comes after Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi revealed at the weekend that the government would fast-track the passage in Parliament of the Cyber and Patriotic bills to deal with those deemed to be delinquents.
“We have the Cyber Bill, but we have been affected by Covid-19 (in passing it).
“There is a need to speed up the passing of this bill which is one of our priority bills.
“What we are going to do is that when we resume sitting next week, we will see if we can cover a lot of ground on it.
“We are hopeful that we can complete it before the end of October.
“People are now using foreign (cellphone) numbers to attack the government. The majority of those attacking the government use foreign numbers,” Ziyambi told the Daily News recently.
According to Clause 164 of the proposed Cyber Bill, anyone found guilty of communicating false information on the country or citizens can be jailed for five years.
“Any person who unlawfully and intentionally by means of a computer or information system makes available, broadcasts or distributes data to any other person concerning an identified or identifiable person knowing it to be false with intent to cause psychological or economic harm shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 10 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, or to both such fine and such imprisonment,” it reads in part.
This comes as the government recently attracted withering criticism from rights groups over allegations of clamping down on critics ahead of the foiled July 31 mass demonstrations.