New cyber security Bill on cards

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CITIZENS risk a five-year jail term for spreading falsehoods on the economic performance of the country on the Internet and on social media, a new Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill says.

This comes as Parliament is this week set to conduct public hearings on the Bill, amid concerns from the government that its economic revival policies were being sabotaged both locally and by foreign-imposed sanctions.

The Bill is being spearheaded by minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Jenfan Muswere.

According to Clause 164 of the Bill, anyone found guilty of communicating false information on the country’s economy would be jailed.

“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 imprisonment,” the Bill reads.

The Bill comes at a time when the country’s economy is sinking as prices of basic commodities are skyrocketing with the local currency continuing to tumble against the US dollar. As of yesterday, the local currency was trading at $100 to the greenback.

Recently, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe warned that it is illegal to be in WhatsApp groups that have people who sell and buy foreign currency unlawfully.

Meanwhile, the cyber Bill also seeks to deal with cyber bullying and anyone found guilty would be liable to a fine not exceeding level 10 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

“Any person who unlawfully and intentionally by means of a computer or information system generates and sends any data message to another person, or posts on any material whatsoever on any electronic medium accessible by any person, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, threaten, bully or cause substantial emotional distress, or to degrade, humiliate or demean the person of another or to encourage a person to harm himself or herself, shall be guilty of false data message intending to cause harm,” Clause 164B of the Bill read.

The Cyber Bill also wants to punish people who circulate data containing any intimate image of an identifiable person without the consent of the person concerned

“Any person who unlawfully and intentionally by means of a computer or information system makes available, broadcasts or distributes a data message containing any intimate image of an identifiable person without the consent of the person concerned causing the humiliation or embarrassment of such person 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 imprisonment.

“For the purposes of subsection (1) “intimate image” means a visual depiction of a person made by any means in which the person is nude, the genitalia or naked female breasts are exposed or sexual acts are displayed,” the Bill said.

According to clause 164F of the Bill any person found guilty of production and dissemination of racist and xenophobic material will be liable to a fine not exceeding level 14 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

“Any person who unlawfully and intentionally through a computer Cyber Security and Data Protection or information system produces or causes to be produced racist or xenophobic material for the purpose of its distribution; offers, makes available or broadcasts or causes to be offered, made available or broadcast racist or xenophobic material; distributes or transmits or causes to be distributed or transmitted racist or xenophobic material; uses language that tends to lower the reputation or feelings of persons for the reason that they belong to a group of persons distinguished on the grounds set out in section 56(3) of the Constitution or any other grounds whatsoever, if used as a pretext for any of these factors; shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 14 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years or to both such fine and imprisonment,” the Bill reads.

The Bill also said any person exposing children to pornographic material will be liable to a fine not exceeding level 14 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

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