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August 11, 2015

Cyber bill

Editorial

 
August 11, 2015

The Cyber Crimes Bill (2015) became controversial earlier this year after a draft of the bill was made public. The law inherently shows poor understanding of social media norms and the real nature of cyber crime. Further discussion on the bill restarted last week, with a number of reservations raised by lawmakers and civil society still unaddressed. A report last Thursday confirmed that even the Ministry of Information Technology has no idea about the status of the cyber crime bill. The ministry says that it has completed the consultation process and submitted it to parliament. The bill should now be with the standing committee – but so far there has been no tangible progress on the matter. The last meeting of the Standing Committee was in May, when it tasked a special assistant to get input from stakeholders. The government claims that no civil society organisation has presented their views, and that it has consulted with the telecom sector and will try to give due attention to their views.
However, representatives of the civil society have said that they are willing to sit with the subcommittee to discuss their proposals. One of the NGOs, had proposed an alternate draft of the bill back in April. The only discussion with the NGO was on a talk show, which is stark indicator of the lack of seriousness within the government in changing the much criticised draft. Civil society representatives and other stakeholders have criticised the bill for removing all protections for human rights. One of the key criticism is that it criminalises texting and emailing without the consent of the receiver. In the meeting of the standing committee last week, IT Minister Anusha Rehman rejected the NGOs as ‘not being real stakeholders’; according to the minister only the state and the IT industry can claim relevance here. She has also said that the bill had been aligned with the National Action Plan. While the need of law is clear, there are serious problems with the bill

that are not being recognised by the standing committee. And there are real fears that the private sphere will be intruded into by the state. Already the state has been reported to be looking to purchase sophisticated surveillance apparatus. A law for the cyber world is needed, but not the one currently under discussion.