Bloggers oppose Cybercrime Bill

The recent passage of the Cybercrime Bill in the lower house is a major headache for several local bloggers, some of whom are vowing to challenge it.

Stephanie Chase, creator of the Chase Files, told the DAILY NATION that while there are some positive aspects of the legislation, the measures were too broad-based and encroached on the territory of free speech.

Similar sentiments were echoed by activist and podcast host Marcia Weekes, who accused the Government of “overreaching” while she announced plans for a protest march on Saturday.

Chase said she was “fearful that bloggers and online activists who attempt to hold Government to account will suffer not only verbal attacks, threats of arrest and lawsuits, but also plausible detention for the contents of their posts”.

“I do believe that citizens need to be protected. However, it seems to me that the Internet and social media platforms continue to play a role in actualising freedoms, advance the right to transparency, and hold governments accountable. It is clear that as online activism reaches a new height, freedom of expression and freedom of speech is under threat from state and non-state entities,” she added.

Criticising what she deemed as the vague language of the legislation, Chase pointed to part II 19.(1) of the legislation which imposes a fine of $70 000 and seven years of imprisonment for transmitting computer data that “intimidates a person”. Furthermore, part II 20. (1) criminalises speech that is deemed “offensive” and causes “anxiety” or “emotional distress”.


“Who is to say that an accurate post may not cause a person to become anxious or to feel emotional distress. You are now asking us to be held accountable for how other people feel. It is too wide; it is too vast. Who is to determine the cause and effect? The language must be more concise, and it has to be clearer. The same social media platform that Government use to promote their agendas, are the same social media bloggers that they are now trying to silence,” Chase argued.

The social media blogger also expressed disappointment that there was not greater consultation before the Bill was taken to Parliament. This position was supported by a fellow blogger, who operates Bim News, a platform with over 15 000 followers. Preferring to be nameless in this article, he said that a cloud of fear now hovers over the public, as many would now be reluctant to share their views on social media platforms that “gave them a voice in matters of national importance”.

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