Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

Legislating repression: Libya’s new cybercrime law

The laws passed by legislatives on October 26 are seen to restrain digital rights. Source from SMEX.

This piece was originally published on November 12 by SMEX. This edited version is published as part of a partnership with the Global Voices.

On October 26, 2021, the Libyan House of Representatives passed a “Cybercrime Law”, one day after approving the “E-Transactions Law.”

In practice, cybercrime laws in the region only serve those in power. These laws are often repressive and impose many restrictions on freedom of expression while legitimizing government control and censorship.

This new Libyan Cybercrime Law is no exception. It blatantly undermines freedom of expression in cyberspace by imposing ambiguous provisions that allow for full control over the public and the press without any judicial authorization. Some Libyans see this law as repressive, especially as it punishes those who publish content online.

Under the new Libyan Cybercrime Law, the National Information Security and Safety Authority is granted the freedom to block websites and “unwanted” content in the absence of any judicial authorization.

In several articles, the Law mentions general expressions that leave judges with a lot of room for interpretation and a broad discretionary power in relation to evidence and criminalization.

Libyan legislators have also expanded the law’s scope of enforcement to include crimes committed outside the country “if their impact and consequences extend to Libya.” This forces a form of self-censorship on citizens outside Libya, especially if they are considering returning to their homeland.

The timing of promulgation, with the presidential elections just around the corner, has left many people wondering about the purpose behind such a move. After the law was passed, the media advisor of the House Speaker announced that “the Cybercrime Law is concerned with cybercrimes that affect the State, among other aspects, but it does not contradict freedom of expression. The Law tackles crimes or the wrongful use of electronic technology in relation to the State, the person, or any other entity, including counterfeiting and spreading rumors.”

Libyans fear that with the approach of the elections, this Law will be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle new political voices, especially amidst the many doubts around its promulgation and adoption. It is important to note that in the past two years, the Libyan House of Representatives has only passed what it deemed as highly necessary legislation, which makes their current efforts to impose this law even more suspicious. In a blog post, Libyan digital tights activist Amjad Badr raised the the concerns of Libyans regarding this Law and their weariness about its timing, stating that the Law is being weaponized to criminalize rights, such as the encryption of conversations, and to repress free speech under the pretext of protecting intellectual property and combating terrorism.

We call on countries and governments in the region to work towards protecting the privacy of citizens and their data, rather than criminalizing online speech and legislating repressive censorship.

This page is available in a different language العربية (Arabic) هذه الصفحة متوفرة بلغة مختلفة

Under the new law, the National Information Security and Safety Authority is authorized to block websites and “unwanted” content in the absence of any judicial authorization.

In several of its articles, the cybercrime law uses generalized language that leaves judges with a lot of room for interpretation and broad discretionary power in relation to evidence and criminalization.

Libyan legislators have also expanded the law’s scope of enforcement to include crimes committed outside the country “if their impact and consequences extend to Libya.” This forces a form of self-censorship on citizens outside Libya, especially if they are considering returning to their homeland.

The timing of promulgation, with presidential elections just around the corner, has left many people wondering about the purpose behind such a move. After the law was passed, the media advisor of the House Speaker announced that “the Cybercrime Law is concerned with cybercrimes that affect the State, among other aspects, but it does not contradict freedom of expression. The Law tackles crimes or the wrongful use of electronic technology in relation to the State, the person, or any other entity, including counterfeiting and spreading rumors.”

Libyans fear that with the approach of the elections, the cybercrime law will be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle new political voices, especially amidst the many doubts around its promulgation and adoption.

It is important to note that in the past two years, the Libyan House of Representatives has only passed what it deemed as highly necessary legislation, which makes their current efforts to impose this law even more suspect.

In a blog post, Libyan digital tights activist Amjad Badr raised the concerns of Libyans regarding this law and their suspicions about its timing, including concerns that the Law is being weaponized to criminalize rights such as the encryption of conversations, and to repress free speech under the pretext of protecting intellectual property and combating terrorism.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site