Activists Push Back on Mauritania's Information Society Law

On April 7, the Mauritanian parliament convened for a special session called for by the President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. On the agenda was a draft law on the Information Society in Mauritania, addressing the Internet-related crimes. Activists and bloggers in the country were not pleased — the bill appears to be an attempt to silence and muzzle voices online, and to neutralize the opposition and dissuade militants from criticizing the regime. 

Activist Mohamed Lemine Sidi Mawloud slammed the law while asserting that activists won't allow their voices to be stifled:

لا ، لا ، لا إن من وقفوا سنوات طويلة ضد تكميم الأفواه في ظروف أحلك من هذه لن يقبلوا الرقابة على تدويناتهم في عصر الثورات والانفتاح الاعلامي، عصر مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي النشطة، والمعلومات المتدفقة … إن الذين حاربوا مصادرة الجرائد وحل الأحزاب في زمن يشارك فيه الجنرال في حراسة ما يسميه النظام البائد، ويمدح أغلب موالاته اليوم ذلك النظام لن يقبلوا تكميم الأفواه بقانون سخيف وساذج كقانون مجتمع المعلومات الذي سيمرره الجنرال من خلال برلمانه الصوري .. إن الحرية تنتزع ولا تمنح، وهناك من ضحى وسيضحي من أجلها إلى جانب من حاربها وسيحاربها كلما سنحت له الفرصة، إنه لمن الغريب والمؤسف أن يقوم نظام يدعي الديمقراطية بمحاولة الرقابة على التدوين في مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي في زمن كزمننا وأيام كأيامنا، إنه “التزراب” على الطيور .. لا لقانون مجتمع المعلومات الجائر، لا لتغريم وملاحقة المدونين بسبب خواطر أو أفكار في صفحات مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي بعد أن حرموا من وسائل الاعلام الرسمية وهمشوا في المنابر العامة ..

No, No, No! Those who stood for years against silencing voices in worse conditions than these won't tolerate their blog posts to be censored and monitored in the era of revolutions and media openness, the era of dynamic social media and flux of information….Those who fought the confiscation of newspapers and the dissolution or disbanding of parties back when the General used to take part in guarding what he calls now a rotten regime and praised the majority and supporters (the current president in Mauritania, Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz was a prominent figure during the rule of Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, and of Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. But he turned against them and played a leading role during the 2 coups that deposed both presidents in 2005 and 2008. Hence the irony because he describes the old regimes rotten while he was one of their leaders). These fighters won't tolerate the muzzling of voices with a silly and naive law such as [this] which the General will ratify through his symbolic parliament. Freedom is seized and not granted. And there is [he] who sacrificed and who will sacrifice for it against the one who fought [for freedom] and who will fight it whenever he gets the opportunity. It's weird and sad that a regime pretending to be democratic attempts to censor blogging on social platforms nowadays. No to the unfair information law. No to sanctioning and persecuting bloggers because of thoughts or ideas on social pages after they were deprived of public and mainstream media and were marginalized in public tabloids.

ِActivist and blogger Sidi Ould Mohamed Lemine is against the draft law. He is chiefly concerned about Article 18 which could undercut another law that requires interdiction prior to jailing journalists as punishment for their reporting:

من أخطر مواد مشروع القانون الجديد هي المادة 18 التي تنص على أنه ” تلغى جميع الأحكام المخالفة لهذا القانون.”
هكذا إذن، فإن القوانين المتعلقة بعدم متابعة الصحفيين أصبحت ملغاة

One of the most dangerous articles of this draft law is article 18 which stipulates that  ”all provisions in conflict with this law are annulled.” Therefore, laws that prevent the persecution of journalists become void.

Baba Ould Deye describes the law as the worst in the history of Mauritania. He believes the section addressing (and prohibiting) encryption is the most dangerous aspect of the legislation:

أقرأ الآن “اﻹطﺎر القانوني للمجتمع المورﻴﺘﺎﻨﻲ للمعلومات” م” . م. م.”

أخطر ما فيه وكله خطير هو “ﻤﺸروع ﻗﺎﻨون ﺤول التشفير”

مشروع القانون هو أسوء مشروع قانون في تاريخ البلد حتي أنه أسوء من قانون الإرهاب والذي صادق عليه البرلمان 2010 وألغي المجلس الدستوي 10 من مواده بعد طعن تقدم به ثلث نواب أغلبهم من المعارضة.

I am currently reading the “legal framework of the Mauritanian Society of Information”.

Its most dangerous part, knowing that its dangerous overall is the section addressing encryption. 

This draft law is the worst in the country's history. It's even worse than the law on terror ratified by the parliament in 2010 in which the constitutional council eliminated ten. of its clauses following a challenge submitted by 1/3 of the deputies, the majorities belonging to the opposition.

Blogger El Houssin Ould Oumar explains the bigger picture. For him, the law is a symbol of greater powers trying to impose their rules: 

@h_oumar83المشكلة هي أن تكون تحت سيطرة مجموعة من الرجالات التقليديين يفرضون عليك قوانينهم متى ما أرادو. #لا_لقانون_مجتمع_المعلومات_الجائر

The problem is to be under the hegemony of a group of traditional men who impose their rules the way they like. No to an unfair law on information society!

 

Moulay Abdallah is wary of the articles addressing cybercrime:

إن مشروع قانون الجريمة السيبرانية عبارة عن 79 مادة تشرع للحكام وأعوانهم التسلط على الناس وكبت الحرية وإذلال الشعب واعتقال المنتقدين بذرائع لا تحصى. إذا أقر هذا القانون فإن كل ما يكتبه الإنسان في موريتانيا أو يقوله أو ينشره ضد السلطة يمكن أن يحمله إلى السجن أو يعرضه للغرامة المالية. هذا قانون تسلطي فرعوني ترهيبي تكميمي. ‫#‏يسقط_قانون_ممم‬ ‫#‏يسقط_قانون_الجريمة_السبرانية‬

The Cybercrime draft law consists of 79 articles which make it legal for rulers to hold sway over people and to repress freedom and humiliate people and arrest critical voices under countless pretexts. If this law is adopted, then whatever someone writes or says or publishes in Mauritania against the authorities can lead him to jail or subject him to a financial penalty. This is a pharaonic, authoritarian, unjust, dominative, terrorizing, muzzling law. Down with the law! Down with the cybercrime law!

Abidine Maatallah, known for his activism against slavery, believes he will be the first prisoner of this law: 

#‏قانون_مجتمع_المعلومات‬ سأكون أول سجين لهذا القانون فعندما يصادق عليه سوف أكتب عن جميع علماء القمح ولحم السعودية وخاصة الكاردينال ولد الددو وسيدي يحي صياد الأرانب.

I will be the first prisoner of the Information Society law. Because once the law is ratified, I will write about all those wheat and Saudi meat clerics especially Cardinal Ould Deddou Sidi Yahya the rabbit hunter. [Abdine mocks clerics in Mauritania who receive some meat to distribute to the poor during Adha, but they instead keep it for themselves. Sidi Yahya is considered to be the spiritual guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Mauritania.]

Activists have created a  Facebook Page to advocate against the law. They are calling for a protest on the day that parliament plans to adopt the law.

The law comes after a wave of infidelity accusations targeting online activists and bloggers. After accusing these young activists of atheism, calls were also voiced to jail some of them, mainly those who produced artworks (videoclips) considered by some to be against the norms and traditions of the Mauritanian Society. It also comes amid a crackdown on opposition websites accused of spreading and instigating violence.

 

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