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PS Camara allays fears about cybercrime bill

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By Tabora Bojang

Amid concerns that the cybercrime bill will erode civil liberties and online dissent when it’s enacted, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy Lamin Camara, has said there is no ulterior motive behind the introduction of the legislation.

The bill was initially introduced in the National Assembly but was referred to a parliamentary committee to conduct a stakeholder engagement.

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According to the government, the bill intends to create a law to combat cybercrime and also address the increasing use of the internet to commit economic crimes, cyberwarfare, intellectual property theft and espionage.

However, human rights organisations and civil society actors including Gambia Press Union and Article 19 considered the bill to be “fatally flawed” and feared it would provide a tool for authorities including security agents to crack down on dissent and online freedom of speech.

But speaking to The Standard Monday, PS Camara said the bill is only intended to ensure cyber security ‘prevails’ in The Gambia and that cyber related crimes are “punished to deter criminals that use the internet for evil purposes.”

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He added that the bill is necessary as Gambia advocates for digital transformation, which he said requires confidence building in the system to attract investment and build confidence.

“This bill is designed to protect all of us including the journalists. All what we are trying to do is to deter unscrupulous people from creating havoc in the system. Yes, we may have other provisions that they think may infringe on their rights but it is all about dialogue.

Governance has improved under this dispensation and I don’t see any ulterior motive in this process. I have been part of the process and we haven’t seen any pressure or significant interest from the government throughout the process,” PS Camara said.

Article 19 is also concerned that the bill is coming at a time when the UN is working to come up with a new cybersecurity convention and that provisions contained in the bill do not meet the low standards that the UN draft convention sets.

But according to PS Camara, the bill was formulated in consultation with the Council of Europe and premised on key instruments that are recognised in the African Union [Malabo] Convention on cyber security and the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime.

He said the UN draft convention is a work in progress and yet to be adopted and cannot be relied upon for references.

“When the UN Convention is done and we see the need to revise the law, we will. I think the National Assembly is going to do a good job with the document that is why they are engaging everybody including the Ministry.

Everybody needs to have confidence in the process. At the end of the day, the people we voted to represent us will look at what is in our greater good and they will act accordingly,” he said.

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