Are people abusing the ICT Act of Mauritius?

Disclaimer
People who are easily annoyed, distressed or may feel an « inconvenience » should not read this post. I will not be liable for any inconvenience caused to the reader.

Information and Communication Technologies Act 2001

Section 46(h)

Any person who —
uses, in any manner other than that specified in paragraph (ga), an information and communication service, including telecommunication service, —

(i) for the transmission or reception of a message which is grossly offensive, or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or

(ii) which is likely to cause or causes annoyance, humiliation, inconvenience, distress or anxiety to that person;

(iii) for the transmission of a message which is of a nature likely to endanger or compromise State defence, public safety or public order; shall commit an offence.


The ICT Act of Mauritius was amended in 2018 and it made a specific section of the legislation more ambiguous than before. Section 46 of the Act describes the offences under that legislation. The amendment introduced words such as humiliation, distress and anxiety to the list of "inconveniences" in part (ii).

The Electronic Frontier Foundation says that the amendments of the ICT Act are in line with the laws of countries such as Egypt, the UAE and Jordan — none of which are democracies.


On 15 April, while the whole country was under curfew, a team of policemen proceeded to arrest a young woman for breach of the ICT Act, after receiving a complaint by a government nominated board member of the ICT Authority.

The Centre for Law and Democracy expressed their concern regarding such an arrest for political satire.

The young woman spent a night in police custody for having posted an image showing a news broadcaster with a captioned photo of the Mauritian Prime Minister and text that joked about world leaders who are going to hold a press conference to ask the Mauritian Prime Minister about his miracle treatment & method for COVID-19.

As it appears the meme or joke caused such annoyance and inconvenience to the ICT Authority's board member that he decided to spend 2 hours at the CCID Cybercrime Unit to complain about it. L'express newspaper reported that the board member expressed on Facebook that he did so for his boss, his PM, and his country.

Now, one may wonder whether this board member of the ICT Authority really has acted out of love for his prime minister or is it a show of loyalty; often the case with persons holding a nominated position in government offices. Whichever reason the complainant may have, this particular incident points towards an abuse of the ICT Act, through the manner of the arrest and act of intimidation on behalf of people of authority.

Updates

  • A photograph lodged a complaint against the ICTA board member following videos that he posted on his Facebook profile in which he made verbal attacks against the photograph.
  • After 4 hours of interrogation at the Central Criminal Investigation Division in the presence of his lawyer, the ICT Authority board member, was arrested for the breach of the ICT Act. He will have to spend the night in police custody.
  • He was released on bail in the afternoon of Sunday 19 April after paying Rs 15,000 and signing an acknowledgement of debt of amount Rs 100,000. He remains accused of breach of the ICT Act of Mauritius.
  • On Monday 20 April, a Member of the Parliament (representing constituency No. 3), lodged a complaint against the same board member of the ICT Authority at the CCID Cybercrime Unit. He submitted four videos which he claims have been now removed from the Facebook wall of the ICTA board member. The latter is said to have made verbal attacks and threats against the MP in the videos.
  • On Wednesday 22 April, the young woman who was arrested following the complaint lodged by the ICTA board member, came up with legal retaliation. She is suing the ICTA board member, the Commissioner of the Mauritius Police Force, the Prime Minister and several police officers. In her plaint with summons she mentions a constitutionally "incestuous" relationship between the ICTA board member and the current Prime Minister of Mauritius. She describes the ordeal she was subjected to at the hands of Police officers.
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