19 November 2018

Mauritius: ICT Act Amended to Regulate and Curtail Harmful and Illegal Contents and Activities

press release

The Information and Communication Technologies Act was amended essentially to regulate and curtail harmful and illegal contents and activities perpetrated through any information and communication service, including telecommunication service. The increase in penalty and term of imprisonment for offenders, send a strong signal regarding Government's firm intent to deter and punish misuses of technologies and protect victims.

The Attorney General, Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Institutional Reforms, Mr. Maneesh Gobin, made this statement during a televised debate that regrouped a panel of independent journalists as well as law students of the University of Mauritius, held on 16 November in Ebène. The debate focused on the amendments brought to the Information and Communication Technologies Act, which has already been promulgated.

The Attorney General emphasised that Government has amended the existing legislation to ensure the proper regulation of the use of internet, in particular telecommunications in the wake of online threats such as harassment, sextortion and cyber-bullying. He observed that social media companies are facing increased international scrutiny as the number of victims of online dangers is sharply increasing.

Hence, he said, as a caring and responsible Government, the public authority has toughened the law to protect its citizens who are also e-citizens of the world, he stated. He highlighted that the amended law will act as an important recourse for victims of social networks misuses to report their grievances, adding that it is crucial to ensure the safety and protection of the most vulnerable internet users that is the youths.

The Attorney General recalled that internet users still exercise the right to freedom of expression, while stressing that the freedom of speech refers to the power to act according to one's will, while respecting the law and the rights of others. He also reiterated Government's commitment to advocate for the fundamental rights and freedom of speech of the population, adding that the Live Broadcast of the proceedings of the National Assembly is a testimony to its stand.

According to Minister Gobin, when it comes to the Mauritian context in particular, it is essential to adopt stringent laws regarding the use of information and communication services in view of protecting its fragile social fabric from purveyors of hate speech and racial attacks. On that score, he urged the population to understand the potential risks of the misuses of social in eroding the core foundations of our harmonious society as well as violating the privacy and causing harm to others. He cautioned internet users to act responsibly on the virtual platform as online activities can be intercepted and tracked down.

In addition, the Minister elaborated on the amendments brought to the Act, stressing that the terms 'obscene, indecent, abusive, threatening, false or misleading, or is likely to cause distress or anxiety', should not be decontextualised and considered in isolation. He emphasised that the Judiciary and local authorities exercise their duties and powers in a judicious, independent and fair manner and will continue to engage in an objective appreciation of evidence, that is weighing the credibility and reliability of the evidence presented in the case.

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