President Bio signs Cybersecurity and Crime Bill into law

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 November 2021:

President Dr Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone has today signed into law the Cybersecurity and Crime Bill 2021, praising the leadership and Members of Parliament for their inordinate bi-partisan support to the process.

“As we embrace digital technologies and participate in that digital space, we must also invest in digital infrastructure and introduce the required legal and regulatory reforms to support that participation. We must tackle questions of access and inclusion but also deal with digital freedoms and rights. We must also prioritise the safe and secure uses of digital technologies so that digital technologies support inclusive national development,” he said.

The President praised civil society organisations, the press, citizens, for their immense contributions to shaping the final product of the bill and thanked them for their ideas, thoughts, and perspectives.

“Sierra Leone also thanks partners for not only supporting the development of our nation’s cybersecurity capabilities but also for assuring us of future cooperation in mitigating cyber threats and cybercrime.

“At the sub-regional level, I agree with the ECOWAS representative that we need a holistic and coordinated approach to develop and secure our cyberspace, augment our cyber-hygiene, strengthen our cybersecurity, and thus build our cyber-resilience in the sub-region,” he said.

President Maada Bio also noted that the general cooperation was a demonstration of the collective and shared global interest in working on cybersecurity and crime.

“Sierra Leone looks forward to more cooperation, more capacity development, more resource and technical support, and more experience sharing in the years ahead. It is, therefore, a great moment of honour to sign into law, the Cybersecurity and Crime Act 2021,” the president said.

Head of the European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone, Ambassador Manuel Alexander Muller, said he was delighted to join the signing ceremony, adding that the event translated into action of a commitment made by President Julius Maada Bio to strengthen governance and endow Sierra Leone with a sound legal framework to mitigate cybersecurity threats and eradicate cybercrime.

Ambassador Muller further stated that the new law would go a long way to harmonise the domestic legal framework of Sierra Leone with the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime and other international agreements. He said the presidential assent was also an important signal to the region and the international community of the country’s commitment to fighting cybercrime.

“I congratulate Sierra Leone on the adoption of the Cybersecurity and Crime Act 2021, and I also convey the strongest sentiment of appreciation on behalf of the European Union and the Council of Europe,” he said.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Anthony Brewah said he was happy to have witnessed the occasion, adding that the advent of computers and the internet have changed the way individuals behave, especially in terms of money laundering, human trafficking, to online identity and credit card theft.

“The law will help reform Sierra Leone’s criminal justice system in many ways. The powers and procedures in the new law will address unauthorised access to protected systems, unauthorised data interception or interference, computer-related forgery, identity theft and impersonation,” he noted.

He further noted that the law would help address online child sexual abuse, the safety and security of every Sierra Leonean, their personal and corporate data system. He assured that the Law Officers’ Department stood ready to work with other law enforcement agencies to implement and harness the benefits of the Act.

Minister of Information and Communication, Mohamed Rahman Swaray, said they utilised a multi-stakeholders’ approach to ensure that contributions of all relevant stakeholders were captured and reflected in various stages of the bill.

He recalled that in 2019 and with support from the ECOWAS Commission, a credible firm was recruited to carry out a thorough desk review of the drafted cybersecurity and crime legislation, adding that it turned out that the drafted bill was in compliance with both international and regional standards like the Budapest Convention, Malabo Convention and ECOWAS Directives on Cybersecurity and Data Protection.

“Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, with 87 percent of our 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,” he noted.

Minister Swaray further disclosed that the new law would strengthen the country’s capacity to apply legislation on cybercrime in a fulfilled commitment to the Malabo and ECOWAS convention on cybercrime, the EU and Budapest convention, all of which guaranteed human rights, privacy, and freedom of speech.

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