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Tanzania: Cybercrimes Bill Enacted

(June 15, 2015) It was reported recently that Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has signed into law the Cyber Crimes Bill, 2015. (Kikwete Signs Cybercrime Bill, PESA TIMES (May. 9, 2015).) As indicated in its “Objectives and Reasons” section, the legislation makes provision for “offences related to computer systems and Information Communication Technologies [as well as] … for investigation, collection, and use of electronic evidence.” (“Objectives and Reasons,” Cybercrimes Act, 2015, 96(8) GAZETTE OF THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA, BILL SUPPLEMENT (No. 4) (Feb. 20, 2015).)

Offenses and Penalties

The Act criminalizes and penalizes a number of cyber activities, including:

 

  • data espionage (obtaining without permission data protected against unauthorized access): punished with at least five years in prison and/or a fine of at least Tanzanian Shilling TZS20 million (about US$9,205) or three times the value of any undue advantage gained, whichever is higher. (Id. § 8.)
  • publication of child pornography: punished with at least seven years in prison and/or a fine of at least TZS50 million (about US$23,012) or three times the value of any undue advantage, whichever is higher. (Id. § 13.)
  • publication of pornography: punished with at least seven years in prison and/or a fine of at least TZS20 million. (Id. § 14.)
  • publication of false information: (defined as the publication of “information, data or facts presented in a picture, texts, symbol or any other form in a computer system where such information, data or fact is false, deceptive, misleading or inaccurate”): at least six-months in prison and/or a fine of TZS3 million. (Id. § 16.)
  • production or dissemination of racist and xenophobic material: at least one year in prison and/or a fine of at least TZS3. (Id. §17.)
  • racist and xenophobic motivated insult: the punishment is the same as for the crime of production or dissemination of racist and xenophobic material. (Id. § 18.)
  • publication of materials that incite, deny, minimize or justify acts that constitute genocide or crimes against humanity: at least three years in prison and/or a fine of at least TZS10 million. (Id. § 19.)
  • initiating the transmission of or retransmission of unsolicited messages: at least one year in prison and/or a fine in the amount of TZS3 million or three times the value of any undue advantage gained, whichever is higher. (Id. § 20.)
  • cyber bullying: punishment is the same as that for an act of producing or disseminating racist or xenophobic material or engaging in racist or xenophobic motivated insult. (Id. § 23.)
  • violation of intellectual property rights: for infringement ona non-commercial basis, at least three years in prison and/or a fine of at least TZS5 million; for infringement on a commercial basis, at least five years in prison and/or a fine of at least TZS 20million. (Id. § 24.)

In addition to these stipulated penalties, courts are authorized to order forfeiture of any property used in the commission of the crime or any property “constituting traceable proceeds of such offence[s].” (Id. § 48.) A court may also order that a person convicted under the Act must pay compensation to the victim/s of the offense. (Id.)

Reception of the Act

Civil society groups have expressed concern that provisions of the Act, including those that criminalize false information and sending unsolicited information, could be used to restrict free speech. (Mari Shibata, In Tanzania, Activists Worry a New Law Will Land Them in Jail for ‘Spam,’ MOTHERBOARD (May 21, 2015).) According to one analyst, those who use social media in conducting work on controversial issues such as wildlife preservation and land issues will be particularly “vulnerable.” (Maraya Cornell, You Could Go to Jail for Tweeting This in Tanzania, NATIONAL GEORGAPHIC (May 13, 2015).) Civil society organizations also fear that the Act will discourage potential whistleblowers from coming forward. (Id.)

Another major point of contention is the role of law enforcement institutions. Rights groups contend that the Act accords law enforcement organizations excessive powers with little oversight. (Pernille Baerendtsen, Tanzania’s Cyber Crime Bill Gives More Power to Police, Less to People, GLOBAL VOICES (Apr. 17, 2015).) In addition to search and seizure powers accorded to the police, the Act authorizes the Minister responsible for information and communication technology to require service providers to “inform the competent authority of alleged illegal activities undertaken or information provided by recipients of their services.” (Cybercrimes Act, §§ 31-39.) The Minister may also put in place rules requiring service providers to provide “competent authorities” information regarding the identities of their customers, upon request. (Id.)

Various rights groups are vowing to challenge in court a number of the Act’s provisions which they allege violate rights guaranteed under the country’s Constitution. (Henry Mwangonde, Rights Activists Declare War on Tanzania Cyber, Statistics Bills, EAST AFRICAN (Apr. 9, 2015).)