Titled “Tanzania’s EPOCA and Cybercrimes Laws Offer No Protection for Citizen’s Data,” the policy brief analyses the Electronic and Postal Communications Act, 2018 and the Cybercrimes Act, 2015.
In summary, the policy brief underlined how Tanzania’s ICT Policy of 2015 recognizes ICT as the bedrock of national economic development and the country’s efforts to become a middle-income economy by 2025.
In this context, the main laws providing protection in Tanzania are the Electronic and Postal Communications Act, 2018 and the Cybercrimes Act, 2015. The Electronic and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) is the principal legal framework as far as electronic and postal communications and telecommunications in Tanzania are concerned.
The Act is administered by the Tanzania Communications and Regulatory Authority (TCRA), a government agency mandated to provide the required oversight in the sector. The Cybercrimes Act, 2015 provides for penal sanctions to deter or discourage privacy and data protection abuses and violations.
The Act is a draconian piece of legislation that has been used repeatedly to violate citizens’ privacy and other digital rights. In 2018, the government issued online content regulations which jeopardize the right to privacy, as well as citizens’ right to freedom of expression.
The country’s 1977 constitution guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to seek, receive and impart information. While the right to privacy is not absolute and the government is mandated, under Article 16 (2), to pass the necessary legal procedures to limit the enjoyment of this right, Tanzanian’s implementation of this provision has been criticized.
Tanzania’s digital rights legislation regulating digital content and online communications have received widespread criticism for threatening citizens’ realization of these constitutional guarantees.
Legislations such as the Cybercrimes Act, have been used to prosecute online users perceived to be critical of the persona of the president or of other powerful individuals and institutions. The Act further criminalizes publication of false information.
Additionally, the lack of a well-organized and comprehensive legal framework has left many gaps in respect of privacy and data protection in Tanzania. These loopholes that have been exploited by repressive authorities to silence dissent and infringe on citizen rights ought to be sealed if the digital rights guarantees are to see the light of day. Privacy and data protection are largely new concepts to many Tanzanians.
This is largely attributed to the low level of ICT literacy in the country. As a result of this low level of awareness, therefore, a majority of internet users do not know or understand the risks they face.
- There is an urgent need for civil society groups and other stakeholders to create awareness and make prescriptions for law reform in order to ensure respect for digital rights in Tanzania.
- There is need to repeal the current digital rights related laws in Tanzania to attune them to international standards and to the developments in the international arena in the area of digital rights.
There is a need to enact a Digital Rights and Freedom Bill in Tanzania to complement the Electronic and Postal Communications Act, 2018 and the Cybercrimes Act, 2015.