Under Libya’s new cybercrime law, the National Security and Information Authority has the freedom to block websites and “unwanted” content without judicial authorization.
In several articles, the Law mentions general expressions which leave to the judges a large margin of interpretation and a wide discretion in matters of proof and incrimination.
Libyan lawmakers also broadened the scope of the law to include crimes committed outside the country “if their impact and consequences extend to Libya”. This imposes a form of self-censorship on citizens outside Libya, especially if they plan to return to their country of origin.
The timing of enactment, with presidential elections fast approaching, has left many wondering the purpose of such a move. After the passage of the law, the media adviser to the Speaker of the House announced that “the Cybercrime Law concerns cybercrimes that affect the state, among other aspects, but it does not contradict freedom of expression. The law punishes crimes or the misuse of electronic technology in relation to the state, person or any other entity, including counterfeiting and the spreading of rumors.
Libyans fear that as elections approach, this law will be used to restrict free speech and stifle new political voices, especially amid the many doubts surrounding its enactment and passage. Importantly, over the past two years, the Libyan House of Representatives has only passed what it considered highly necessary legislation, making their current efforts to impose this law even more suspect. In a blog post, Amjad Badr, a Libyan digital pantyhose activist, shared Libyans’ concerns about the law and their weariness about its timeline, saying the law is being used to criminalize rights, such as encryption of conversations, and suppress freedom of expression. under the pretext of protecting intellectual property and fighting terrorism.
We call on countries and governments in the region to work to protect the privacy of citizens and their data, rather than criminalizing online speech and legislating repressive censorship.
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