Law to Prevent Hate Speech, Fake News Sent to Ethiopian Parliament

By Staff Reporter

Council-of-MinistersNovember 9, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- The Council of Ministers of Ethiopia in its meeting on Saturday, November 9, 2019, referred a new bill, called Computer Crime Proclamation that aims to prevent hate speech and dissemination of fake news, to the House of Peoples Representatives for approval.

“It is deemed necessary to enact the law because the nation cannot address problems arising from hate speeches and fake news with existing laws,” a statement issued from the council of ministers said. However, no detailed reasons were given why the current laws are inadequate to handle such news.

Very details have been disclosed so far by the government regarding the bill, which could be controversial with the public and international human rights bodies.

The office of the attorney general which drafted and tabled the bill for discussion at the council of minister earlier said the new bill would deter irresponsible social media activism and fake news dissemination which it said served as catalyst for ethnic related violence in various parts of the country.

With the expansion of social media and heated political debate on national issues, the contents of hate speech and tribalism/racism are arguably on the rise, which some people advised for serious measures and stricter legislation to contain the unprecedented damage these may cause.

Many people, however, claim that censoring posts on social media and bringing accountability will hardly be successful. These people fear the law may actually further restrict the freedom of speech and the right to criticize the government.

The statement further said the good social values and interrelations between different ethnic groups of the country have been eroded due to hate speeches and fake news being circulated mainly via social media.

There were one or two public consultations over the matter back six months ago and several experts expressed concern with its possible impact on free speech, in direct opposition with the constitution of the country. Human rights activists are wary that the “computer crime proclamation” could be used as a tool to silence dissents.

According to the information released earlier from the attorney general office, sharing defamatory speech could get someone at least three years in prison per the new law.

The Council of Ministers, in its 75th regular session, also discussed and approved other bills including the agreement signed with Djibouti to build a natural gas pipeline.

The pipeline will be used to transport Ethiopian gas to an export terminal in the Red Sea state. In all, the Council approved a total of five draft bills in the meeting.

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