Zimbabwe drafts law to end social media abuse

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Harare, Aug 7 (IANS) The Zimbabwean government is drafting a law to penalise the “abusive” usage of social media with five-year jail terms in its latest measures to regulate cyber space law and order, officials said on Sunday.

According to the draft, any person staying either in Zimbabwe or overseas shall be held guilty if found intentionally generating, possessing and distributing an electronic communication with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, threaten, bully or cause emotional distress to another person, Xinhua news agency reported.

The state-run Sunday Mail said the legislation, Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill, together with two supporting bills on information technology, is to manage the cyber space, which has “for long been abused to foment social disobedience and attack private citizens”.

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The legislation came after political dissents organised a series of job boycotts and protests in recent weeks via social media, notably Whatsapp, Youtube and Facebook, mobilising thousands of followers to take action to vent their frustration over a failing economy and alleged rampant corruption.

The authorities said the bills would soon be taken to parliament while the security chiefs have vowed to stand ready to deal with cyber-based attempts at destabilisation.

Like many other African countries, Zimbabwe saw a sharp rise on mobile internet penetration rate thanks to the proliferation of affordable smart-phones and cheap data packages offered by telecommunication firms.

The country’s telecommunication regulator Potraz reported earlier this year that active mobile internet subscriptions rose to 6.5 million by the end of 2015, nearly half of the entire national population.

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