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Mauritius Parliament votes controversial cyberlaw, without amendment

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The Mauritian Parliament has on Friday night voted in favour of the  controversial Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Bill – intended to update the laws for the digital age.

But critics say the law – voted without any proposed amendments – could be a catastophe for freedom of speech and are getting ready to challenge it before the Supreme Court. 

Minister of ICT Deepak Balgobin told Parliament that the “purpose of this bill is to strengthen cybersecurity and protect every citizen, especially the most vulnerable, against any form of cybercrime”.

He added that the bill is “in no way associated” with another controversial Consultation Paper published by the ICTA last April.

The new cyberlaw has been criticised by civil rights activists as being a serious threat to freedom of speech.

Service providers like MT, Emtel, will be reportedly compelled to give police access to their ‘stored and real-time traffic data‘ for the purposes of investigation, they claimed.

They denounced specific sections of the laws which reportedly provides for the composition of a proposed ‘National cybersecurity committee’ to be made up of members selected by the minister.

There is no transparency and no possibility for someone to contest any decision taken by the committee”.

According to the new law, owners of Facebook pages or other social media, or even websites, will be required to moderate the content of their platforms upon notification from the police.

Opposition MP explained that “with these new punishments, like 20 years imprisonment if a computer was used, I am afraid that some of them may not pass the test of proportionality under the Constitution and as guaranteed by the Budapest Convention.”

Le Mauricien newspaper quoted MMM MP leader Paul Bérenger as saying that he was in favour of “half of the proposed laws”. However, he emphasized that some “sections are clearly unconstitutional”.

“We said that we will go to the Supreme Court to challenge this bill if nothing changes. A committee should have been created, chaired by the minister, in order to reach a consensus on the ambiguities and exaggerations of certain sections. But the government did not listen it and that’s a shame,” Berenger was cited as saying.

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