House approves cybercrime law

The House of People’s Representatives (HPR) on Tuesday approved the Computer Crime Proclamation bill which aims to regulate and protect against cybercrimes and to protect the rights of individuals.

The bill, which was originally presented to the House in April by the Ministry of Science and Technology, has been the talk of the town in which many fear it may be used by the government to stifle criticism via technological aided communication devices including computers, cell phones and other internet compatible tools.

The new law is said to serve protection against local and foreign cybercrimes targeting government institutions and infrastructure as well as safeguarding the rights of individuals due to the growing penetration of the internet, computers, and cell phones in the country.

It was also said that the latest bill was prepared to incorporate new legal mechanisms and procedures in order to prevent, control, investigate and prosecute computer crimes and facilitate the collection of electronic evidences.

Without violating citizens’ rights, the proclamation protects the rights of individual and institutions, Gebregziabher Araya, Chairman of Law, Justice and Administration Affairs Standing Committee at the House of People’s Representatives, said.

The provisions stated in the 53-page bill encompasse an extensive list of cybercrimes including internet fraud, electronic identity theft, and hacking.

Hence, the law provides Ethiopia’s constitution the necessary tools to control, prevent, investigate, and prosecute perpetrators of cybercrimes.

The Computer Crime Proclamation places restrictions on the cyber transmission of illegal content including sexually explicit material.

A prison sentence of five to ten years is the stipulated punishment for the transmission, distribution and possession of illegal content in the form of cyber pictures, videos, text and audio speeches.

Under the new law, suspects found guilty of hacking government infrastructure will face 10 to 15 years in prison. The sentence also includes a fine of 100,000 to 200,000 birr.

The Information Network Security Agency (INSA) has been mandated to investigate cybercrimes.

Meanwhile, the House passed unanimously the Aviation Security Proclamation No, 957/2016 and Computer Crime Proclamation No.958/2016.

According to the House’s Transport Standing Committee, taking into account the existing international conventions on civil aviation and the promising aviation industry of the country, the Aviation Security Proclamation was drafted. The committee also noted that the issuance of the proclamation would make Ethiopian aviation competitive thereby expanding Ethiopian Airlines’ destinations.