Tough “Cybercrimes Bill” on Hold in Iraq

By Laith Hammoudi.

This article was originally published by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, iwpr.net, and it is reproduced by Iraq Business News with permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

A tough new law that could place severe restrictions on internet use in Iraq has been put on the back burner, as opponents warn that it could be used to silence legitimate criticism of the government.

In its present form, the “cybercrimes bill” has been criticised for setting out severe punishments for a range of vaguely-defined offences. Media and NGOs in Iraq and international organisations have urged parliament not to pass it.

“I don’t expect to put the draft of the cybercrime law to the vote this year or even next,” Ali al-Shilah, who heads the Iraqi parliament’s culture committee and is one of the architects of the bill, told IWPR.

Shilah said the staff in charge of parliamentary business had noticed that the law had been not been dealt with and considered putting it on the agenda, but his committee had requested a delay until further amendments were made, partly in light of the evolving security environment in Iraq.

Legal affairs expert Hasan Shaban is not so sure – he believes the bill will go through anyway, despite what he sees as its obvious infringement of the right to free speech.

“I am afraid this law will be approved, because parliament is dominated by Islamic blocs,” he said.

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