Proposed legislation on the table in Iraq has free speech and human rights watch groups on alert. The proposed laws — which deals with press freedom and online publishing — could use draconian methods and punishments to grossly limit freedom of expression in the two countries, and rein in internet usage at a time when Middle East governments are still wary about last year’s Arab Spring protests.
According to a translation from the Centre for Law and Democracy, Articles 3, 4, and 5 of Iraq’s Informatics Crimes Law would impose a mandatory life sentence for anyone using a computer or the Internet to do any of the following:
“compromise” the “unity” of the state;
subscribe, participate, negotiate, promote, contract or deal with an enemy … in order to destabilize security and public order or expose the country to danger;
damage, cause defects, or hinder [systems or networks] belonging to security military, or intelligence authorities with a deliberate intention to harm [state security].
promote “ideas which are disruptive to public order”;
“implement terrorist operations under fake names or to facilitate communication with members or leaders of terrorist groups”;
“promote terrorist activites and ideologies or to publish information regarding the manufacturing, preparation and implementation of flammable or explosive devices, or any tools or materials used in the planning or execution of terrorist acts”;
facilitate or promote human trafficking “in any form”;
engage in “trafficking, promoting or facilitating the abuse of drugs”.
The Act also includes provisions to punish network users who “create chaos in order to weaken the trust of the electronic system of the state,” “provoke or promote armed disobedience,” “disturb public order or harm the reputation of the country,” or “intrude, annoy or call computer and information network users without authorization or hinders their use,” the Electronic Freedom Foundation reports. Copyright infringement and hacking would also land users in big trouble under the Act, which proposes a 2- to 3-year prison term for either offense.
Human rights group Access is vocally opposed to the proposed legislation. It has issued a report calling the Information Technology Crimes Act of 2011 “vague, overbroad, and overly harsh.” The EFF echoes this sentiment, and on its blog called for the Iraqi Parliament to fully evaluate the human rights impact of the Act and to “engage with civil society actors and technologists to revise the bill.”