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Members of Parliament reject Electronic Bill

Members of Parliament (MPs) on Wednesday referred Electronic Transaction Bill to Parliamentary Committee on Media and Communications, arguing that there were gaps in the Bill which needed to be addressed.

The Bill is among others, trying to regulate freedom of online communicators.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) shadow Minister of Information Ezekiel Ching’oma said the Bill has many gaps which need to be looked at carefully.

He said MCP finds the placement of proposed Malawi Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert) unit under the Department of E-government as operationally and functionally flawed.

He argued that it could be better if it were placed under the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra). He also said some elements of the Bill are complex and highly technical, as such require consultations with relevant stakeholders

“The position of the Malawi Congress Party is that this Bill seems not to be ready for debate by members of this House. This Bill requires more consultations. As a party, we in MCP are of the view that this Bill, owing to its importance and sensitiveness, requires further consultations with relevant stakeholders,” Ching’oma said.

The stakeholders, he said, should be consulted include the academia, civil society, ICT practitioners, telecommunication operators and media institutions.

People’s Party Chief Whip Ralph Jooma, said that the Bill “comes at the right time when the whole world is living in an information age”.

“The Bill Mr. Speaker Sir, notwithstanding the freedom of expression, is actually making some provisions in Section 28, where it is intending to limit freedom of online communicators. This is very welcome, considering what we currently see, with certain online publications. If you may allow me Sir, let me cite Nyasa Times, as an example. Of course in many instances, it is not the making of the editor, or indeed the reporter but those who come just below the article. They take advantage of it, use that platform to castigate and damage others. They get away with it because there is currently no law to report them with,” Jooma said.

However, like Ching’oma, he said the Bill needed thorough scrutiny.

He, for instance, sought clarity on what the yet to be created position of Secretary to E-government means in view of the current reforms which are reducing number of Principal Secretaries.

Jooma added: “If you go to Section 47 of the Bill, there is an assumption that this Bill can only be passed after the Payment Systems law is in place. This is a Bill that was referred to a committee a few days ago.”

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