Lawmakers Ratify Bill Curbing Hate Speech, Fake News

  • MPs also passes Excise Tax Law

ADDIS ABEBA – The lower house of the Ethiopian parliament on Thursday has approved a bill that punishes hate speech and disinformation.

The bill, fully named Hate Speech and Misinformation Proclamation, legislated amid concerns over widespread online fake news and hate speech that some observers blame for ethnic tensions in the country.

It has been approved with a majority vote, 23 lawmakers opposing and two abstaining.

Kassa Gugsa, one of the opposing MPs, said law contradicts the Ethiopian constitution that grants the right of thought, opinion, and expression for the public.

He said the government could have used the provision of the country’s criminal code which bans hate speech related religion.

“If the government really wants to correct this issue, it is better to make criminal code more effective,” said Kasa.

Another MP named Adhana Haile said the intention of the law is not to curb hate speech. It is rather “to protect government officials, political party leaders and the media institutions that are feeling hateful speeches,” he said.

That view echoes concerns by foreign experts, who criticized a draft bill in December.

The majority of the lawmakers, who complained the law is lenient, have endorsed the bill saying the law was necessary to protect the nation from the impact of chaotic messages coming from various directions.

They also said the law is needed because existing legal provisions didn’t properly address hate speech and disinformation and said it will not affect citizens’ rights beyond protecting them.

In the same session, the house has also approved the much-talked-about excise tax bill which has been a subject of various discussions since December 2019.

The excise tax bill aims to raise the country’s tax revenue and avoid and or discourage hazardous commodities from entering the market.

The government has already made various adjustments following a public uproar due to price surge in some commodities since the bill’s introduction to the lawmakers.

Accordingly, the ministry said that it has reduced the excise rate levied on new cars with 1,300 CC and below from 30% to 5% percent.

Recently, the ministry of finance while discussing the revisited bill said the price of tobacco was placed at 30 percent plus six birrs per pack.

The price has now increased even higher with the final law has put the excise tax rate on tobacco to 30 percent per pack plus eight birrs.

Readjustment has also been made on the final draft law regarding the excise tax rate on vehicles which are belowew1, 300CC.

Accordingly, vehicles used up to two years from 80 percent to 55 percent, vehicles used up to four years from 130 percent to 105 percent, vehicles used up to seven years from 230 percent to 205 percent and vehicles used for over seven years have got excise tax reduction from 430m t0 405 percent.

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By Sisay Sahlu

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