Tuesday, 15 June 2010
The draft law was made public online by the Director of the ICT Association, Gabriel Deek and can be accessed here(Arabic). Deek says all officials approached with regards to the shortcomings of this law responded positively and share the concerns of the ICT community and rights activists.
The proposed law calls for forming an Electronic Signature & Services Authority with wide powers over the ICT sector.
Beit Mery MP Ghassan Moukhaibar - known for their stern position in favour of public freedom, and specially freedom of expression - opposed the law considering the proposed authority a "legalisation of the right to view any document or have unlimited power in controlling online services." Moukhaibar, 52, is a veteran MP who has served consecutive terms in the legislature and is a key figure amongst the "Change and Reform" parliamentary bloc led by opposition leader General Michel Aoun. Moukhaibar is also President of the Association of "Arab Parliamentarians Against Corruption."
The opposition daily, Al-Akhbar, accused the law of transforming Lebanon into an authoritarian environment where the minor details of citizens' internet correspondences may be under surveillance.
Yalibnan stated a few concerns regarding the law, including:
Article 92, saying anyone providing online services must apply for a license. Result: More paperwork, more bureaucracy, more delays, less revenue.
Article 82, allowing for the warrantless search and seizure of financial, managerial, and electronic files, including hard drives, computers, etc. Result: The government has pre-approval to seize your company and personal assets and information, without cause.
Article 70, establishing the Electronic Signature & Services Authority, a new regulatory and licensing body with practically unchecked powers. Result: Another agency, who can make or break your organization at their whim.
The law is believed (according to information I received from friends) to have been proposed by the Media and Communications Subcommittee headed by Bint Jbeil MP Hassan Fadlallah, a member of the "Loyalty to the Resistance" (Hezbollah) parliamentary bloc. Nevertheless, the committee also includes pro-majority 14th March Shi'a MP from Zahlé, Oqab Saqr along with Annahar Editor-in-Chief Nayla Toueini (daughter of Gebran Tueni and grandchild of Michel Murr), Nabil Sab'e Nicolas and other majority MPs.
The law has been referred to the Information Technology Subcommittee for revision and reconsideration. The committee is headed by the controversial pro-14 March MP and former minister of Youth & Sport and former interim Minister of Interior Ahmad Fatfat.
Lebanese activists have been vocal against the law and are rallying opponents of the law to take action and lobby against the law which violates the civil and political right to free expression and free flow of information. One of the vehicles to oppose the law has been a Facebook group which has attracted 899 members as of today - a week after it was initiated by Gabriel Deek. The group.called upon its members to "mobilize ressouces, talk to MPs & ministers to postpone decision" - a goal they have thus far been successful in achieving.
Furthermore, LBC ran a short news report on the draft law highlighting the opposition it receives from the ICT community and the Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry as well as ISPs.
Pan-Arab human rights and free expression advocates expressed their dismay at the proposed law. The Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights Information issued a statement condemning the law and outlining its shortcoming. The statement is available on the ANHRI website in Arabic as well as English.