By: Zacharia Jalloh, Strategic Communications Unit, MIC.
The President of the Republic of Sierra Leone His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio has today 17th November 2021 signed into law the Cybersecurity and Crime Act 2021 at an event held at State House.
The enactment of the Cybersecurity and Crime Act is a fulfillment of the nation's commitment in meeting international treaties like the Budapest Convention, Malabo Convention, ECOWAS Directives and the Commonwealth Declaration.
With the exponential growth in digital technology, there is no time better than now to protect the use of the cyber space. With 87 percent of citizens connected by mobile voice and 27 percent connected on various social media platforms, the need for a cybercrime legislation has never been more urgent than now. According to the Institute of Governance Reform (IGR) survey, 65% of citizens agree that there is need to protect citizens on the cyber space.
The President in his keynote address noted that digital technologies are to the 21st Century what the steam engine was to the Industrial Revolution. According to President Bio, they are truly transformational.
"I see digital technologies as enablers that will accelerate and drive the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals depending on how intentional we are about introducing them, how we scale their impact, and how accessible and inclusive those digital technologies are to our population... Since 2018 Sierra Leone now has wider mobile telephone coverage, more use of mobile technologies, more internet connectivity, and more access to digital communication apps and content. Communications, financial transactions and banking, access to service have all been enhanced as a consequence," President Bio averred.
President Bio congratulated the Minister of Information and Communications, Mr. Mohamed Rahman Swaray for his multi-stakeholder engagement in driving this much-needed reform. He went on to appreciate the role of civil society, the press, citizens, MPs and the Honourable Speaker of Parliament for their vibrant debates around the bill and the inordinate bi-partisan support for the final bill. The president also extended thanks and appreciation to EU, UK and ECOWAS for their tremendous support in the development of the bill.
In highlighting the key importance of the Cybersecurity and Crime Act, Minister of Information and Communications Mr. Mohamed Rahman Swaray recalled how in 2018, he made a compelling case for Sierra Leone to partners in Ethiopia, to support His Excellency's vision of creating a digitally conducive Sierra Leone of which Cybersecurity was a major component. The Council of Europe accepted his appeal to support Sierra Leone develop its Cybercrime law and related instruments.
"This law will strengthen our capacity as a country to apply legislation on Cybercrime and is a fulfillment of our commitment to both the Malabo Convention and the ECOWAS Directives on Cybercrime and is also consistent with provisions under the EU Budapest Convention; all of which guarantee human rights, privacy and freedom of speech," Minister Swaray explained.
The Minister went on to re-assure the public that in drafting the law, great cognizance of the right of privacy, right to freedom of expression and right to access to information as enshrined in section 25(1) of the 1991 constitution was taken.
"The bill was also inspired by subsection (2) of the same section (25)(1) of the 1991 constitution which checkmates persons while enjoying or exercising their rights. The provisions were also in compliance with the 1965 Criminal Procedure Act," Minister Swaray concluded.
Statements from EU, UK ECOWAS and the Attorney General were made, all recognizing the importance of the Cybersecurity and Crime Act 2021 in modern day life.
The program was climaxed with the signing of the Cybersecurity and Crime Act into law by the President Dr. Julius Maada Bio.