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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Proposed cybercrime law empowers police, SIS to intercept communications

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By Tabora Bojang

The government yesterday tabled the Cybercrime Bill 2023 which aims to among other things secure a legitimate basis for law enforcement agencies including the intelligence agency to monitor and intercept specific communications in real-time connected with persons or premises under investigation.

The bill is tabled under the guidance of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and underwent first reading before lawmakers yesterday.

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If approved, the law will give powers to a police officer below the rank of ASP, an intelligence or cyber security agency officer below the rank of deputy director to apply to the high court for the issue of warrants for the collection of traffic data for specific criminal investigations, or if they have reasonable grounds to believe that traffic data is associated with specific communications or connected with persons under investigation.

According to the Bill, application for such warrant shall be made ex-parte and if approved by the court, the officer concerned may seize, secure specific computer system or program or data and would be further authorised to inspect and check the operation of any computer system.

Persons found obstructing the exercise of powers under this section or abusing powers granted under it are liable to a fine of not more than D1 million or imprisonment of not more than 2 years.

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The bill provides that a service provider served with an order on the warrant shall comply with it or risk committing an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of not more than D1 million or imprisonment.              

Also, under the Bill authorised persons may also apply to a judge of the high court to issue a warrant to allow them to collect or record through the application of technical means or require service providers to intercept specific communications in real-time for the purposes of prosecution of a serious crime or to give effect to mutual legal assistance requests.

The Bill also intends to criminalise the following; using a computer system with intent to harm to spread false news or information against a person, production, possession, transmission, distribution and downloading of child pornography through a computer system, sharing and distribution to the public any form of sexually explicit content of another person and using a computer system to threaten, intimidate, coerce, harass or harm a person by using the sexually explicit content of that person.

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