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Botswana drafts social media court evidence bill

Botswana drafts social media court evidence bill.

Botswana has crafted draft legislation to control the use of cyberspace, especially social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Dubbed the ‘Electronic Records Evidence Bill’, the draft bill has already been published in the government gazette and is planned to be presented in parliament.

And according to the bill, individuals insulted or defamed on social media, will be allowed to present electronic records from cyberspace as evidence to courts.

Once passed, offenders risk a P10,000 fine, five years in prison or both under the proposed Electronic Records Evidence Act to compliment the country’s ‘Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act’.

“Any person who, in certificate tendered under Section 6, in a court makes a statement which he or she knows to be false or does not reasonably believe to be true commits and offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P10,000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to both,” reads part of the draft bill.

Other evidence that will be admitted in the proposed law includes bank records, scanned documents, email transmissions, published documents or comments on the internet and video recordings.

The bill recognises the appointment of a commissioning officer at Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) whose mandate is set to include authenticating electronic records for their admissibility in court.

BOCRA is Botswana’s communications regulator established at the beginning of April in 2013.

“The communications regulatory authority shall be the certifying authority for purposes of this act. Unless otherwise provided in any other written law, where an electronic record is tendered in evidence, such an electronic record shall be admissible if it is relevant and is produced in an approved process. A certificate signed by the certifying authority purporting to identify the electronic records system including that part of the system that is relevant to the proceedings, shall be sufficient evidence of the integrity of the electronic records system,” reads part of the bill.

Already, under Botswana’s BOCRA Act section 55, a person that sends by means of a 'public telecommunications system' a message that is deemed to be offensive or of a menacing, indecent, obscene nature could be committing an offence.

Last year, comments on Facebook landed a local journalist in court in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in Botswana.

However, the magistrate court referred the case to the customary court of appeal to decide whether the matter should be heard by the magistrate court.

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