25 March 2019

Malawi: Macra Steps Up Efforts in Protecting Children From Cyber-Crimes

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Zomba — Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA), and Youth Net and Counseling (YONECO) have intensified efforts aimed at protecting children from cyber-crimes through a 24-hour Tithandizane child help-line.

The help-line handles all forms of abuse against children including online cyber-crimes.

Speaking on Friday at Likangala Secondary School in Zomba during the commemoration of World Consumer Rights Day, MACRA Director General, Godfrey Itaye appealed to children in the country to exercise online rights and responsibilities to avoid being victims of cyber mobile bullying and other online crimes.

Itaye said MACRA's mandate was to ensure a better and safe digital world for all and protection of consumers of information and communication technology (ICT) services through regulation and monitoring of electronic communication, postal services and coordination of electronic and cyber security.

"The national survey on access and usage of ICT services in Malawi revealed that 85.2 per cent of households in Malawi have access to a mobile phone," Itaye said, adding that there is clear indication that most people are directly or indirectly consumers of ICT services and products.

"As consumers of ICT products and services, every Malawian has the right to fair trade practices, accurate, timely and correct information, consumer education, freedom of choice and privacy," Itaye said.

Itaye, therefore, stated that every citizen has the right to emergency ICT services and be protected against hazardous goods and services.

YONECO IT and Help-Line Services Manager, Panji Harawa said the organization is implementing a Child Protection Strategy through Tithandizane Child National platform via a toll-free line 116 which also handles cyber abuses.

Harawa said YONECO receives complaints from the youth on cyber bullying and other on-line forms of crime against children though they are not many compared to the common complaints against children such as child marriages, neglect and trafficking.

"YONECO in partnership with the law enforcers trace perpetrators of cyber-crimes against children through MACRA and mobile service providers. We are implementing this initiative using a toll free line on child abuses," Harawa said.

A Form 3 student at St. Mary's Secondary School, Chifundo Chawinga said has ever suffered cyber bullying but did not have any knowledge regarding where to complain, as she did not know that YONECO also handles such crimes.

"There is need to sensitise children on cyber-crimes and the help-line," she said, adding that most children have fallen victims of cyber bullying without realising that they are victims of crime which is punishable by law.

Cyber mobile bullying is the use of technology such as phones, computers or tablets to harass, threaten or embarrass a person by sending intimidating messages through text, email, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, snap chat or any other social media platform.

During the commemoration whose theme was: 'Trusted Smart Products; Better Digital World,' MACRA officials gave talk to students drawn from St. Mary's Girls, Likangala and Mulunguzi Community Day Secondary School on topics that ranged from online rights and responsibilities, cyber smart rules, online risks and challenges.

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