MISA Malawi welcomes passing of Data Protection Bill

Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) MAlawi Chapter has commended Members of Parliament (MPs) for passing of the long-awaited Data Protection Bill.

The MPs passed the bill on Thursday, November 7, 2023. The bill seeks to provide for a comprehensive legal framework for the regulation of the processing and transfer of personal data, in compliance with internationally accepted principles of data protection.

According to a statement from MISA Malawi Chapter signed by its Chairperson Golden Matonga, the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection defines Personal Data as “information that relates to an identified or identifiable natural person by which that person can be identified, in particular by reference to an identification or to one or more factors specific to his/her physical, physiological, mental, economic, cultural or social identity.

“As the world becomes more digitized and systematic and unsystematic collection of personal data online and offline becomes widespread, ” reads part of the statement.

“In the past decade or so, we have seen government agencies such as the National Registration Bureau (NRB) and private institutions such as telecommunication companies collecting and processing personal data without any legal framework safeguarding such data,” he explained.

MISA Malawi Chairperson Golden Matonga

Matonga further said that the absence of data protection law in Malawi has resulted in compromised right to privacy as personal data continues to be known, stored and used by unauthorized parties.

“We believe data protection law will promote responsible handling of personal data by government agencies, private institutions and individuals. The law will also be a big plus to section 21 of the Constitution of Malawi which guarantees right to personal privacy,” he added.

MISA Malawi has also agreed with the Media, Information and Communications and the Legal Affairs Committees of Parliament that the temporary housing of the Data Protection Authority by Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) should be for a period of not more than twelve months to ensure separation of powers by the respective Authorities.

The Bill designates MACRA as the Data Protection Authority.

 Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Communications, Susan Dossi, said parliamentary committees were surprised on why the Data Protection Authority would be housed under another Authority, but the Ministry of Information and Digitalisation assured them that this was just a temporal measure up until the new Authority becomes self-sustaining

“We believe, if assented to by the Head of State, the Bill will protect Malawians and the general public from cyber threats, cybercrimes and unwarranted surveillance,” said Dossi.

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