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Should Iraq's cybercrime draft law be passed?

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Many Iraqis think the cybercrime draft law oppresses the freedom of expression. The law would impose heavy prison sentences and hefty fines against peaceful critics who express themselves online would be a devastating setback for freedom of expression in Iraq, Amnesty International said in March.

The organization has highlighted its serious concern over the draft “Law on Information Technology Crimes” in an open letter signed by nine other NGOs. The letter was submitted to the Iraqi authorities this morning and warns that the proposed law would “establish a climate of self-censorship in the country.”

“If passed, this draconian cybercrime law will be a devastating blow for freedom of expression in Iraq. The vague and overly broad wording of the law means it could easily become a tool for repression in a country where the space for critical voices is already severely restricted,” said Razaw Salihy, Iraq researcher at Amnesty International. 

The proposed law would criminalize acts that fall under freedom of expression and give Iraqi authorities excessive powers to impose harsh sentences, including life imprisonment, for vaguely worded offences such as undermining the country’s “independence, peace and political, military security and economic interests”. 

Activists' objection

Human rights groups and activists are urging the Iraqi parliament to withdraw the cybercrime bill that would greatly restrict freedom of expression online, if adopted, Advox reported.

Earlier this year, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights warned:

“Without a clear and explicit definition of terrorism, it would be easy to use the law to liquidate the resources of political opponents and other activists.”

Internet-related rights are already on shaky ground in Iraq. Last summer, authorities responded to protests denouncing corruption and dire living conditions in Basra and other cities by shutting down the internet.

If adopted, the bill will only make it harder for Iraqis to exercise their rights to communicate, speak freely and access information online.

In March, nine human rights groups including AccessNow, Amnesty International and the the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights published a statement urging the Iraqi parliament to withdraw the bill:

…the law will result in Internet users becoming fearful of exercising their fundamental rights and freedoms online, and will empty the right to freedom of expression of its substance. The law would also have far-reaching effects on the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of information as well as the right to participation in public affairs in Iraq.
Last Modified: Friday، 19 April 2019 01:04 AM
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