Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Legislation in South Africa

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Session Description

A session on *cybercrime and cybersecurity legislation* and the impact of such legislation on internet freedom and, in particular, digital press freedom.

In recent years internet freedom in South Africa has come under growing threat and has become an increasingly high profile issue. Late last year the government gazetted a 128-page Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill <http://www.r2k.org.za/2015/11/30/whats-wrong-with-the-cybercrimes-bill-the-seven-deadly-sins> which would have devastating consequences for the free flow of expression and information online.

In response to the legislation R2K compiled a joint policy submission <http://www.r2k.org.za/2015/11/30/cybercrimesbill> with experts and allied organisations based locally and abroad and has begun to build a sustained advocacy campaign against this draconian piece of legislation. The first link above highlights some of the worst aspects of the bill, the net effect of which would be the criminalisation of investigative journalists and whistleblowers (backed up by hefty prison sentences), the undermining of basic civil liberties, and the overall securitisation of the internet.

This, of course, would sound familiar to internet freedom activists across the globe. It echoes cybersecurity regulations and legislation that is in the pipeline in the US (in the same vein as a 2015 US executive order, for example, South Africa's Cybercrimes Bill would deter penetration testing in the public interest).

There are countless similar examples of governments around the world attempting to bring the internet under tighter control at the expense of fundamental democratic rights and freedoms, and often under the guise of combating cybercrime. While there is a very real need to deal with the threat of cybercrime, efforts to do so must not be heavy handed and must always be balanced with freedom of expression and the freedom to receive and impart information. This is not the case with South Africa's Cybercrimes Bill, which was drafted by political elites who tend to see the democratising potential of the net as a threat to be curtailed.

A discussion on cybersecurity legislation seems pertinent, especially given the raft of worrying laws we're seeing in so many countries. International cooperation and solidarity has proven to be exceptionally useful in our own internet campaign and we have learnt a great deal from international activists who have had to deal with similar legislation. There is a great deal more to learn and we hope that the lessons of our own campaigns against internet censorship in South Africa would provide lessons for others abroad."

Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Legislation in South Africa
Presenter/s Micah Reddy
Organization Right2Know Campaign in South Africa
Bio/s Micah Reddy is the organiser for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign in South Africa. He also works as a freelance journalist and is a co-founder of Sound Africa - a podcast for creative non-fiction from the African continent - and is a former managing editor at the Yemen Times in Sana'a. He holds a Masters in African Studies from the University of Oxford.
Language English
Topics

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