Bhutan Information, Communications and Media (BICM) Amendment Bill

Computer hacking in bhutan

Protection against impersonation, exploitation of children, violating bodily privacy, and cyber terrorism, among others, have been added into the Bhutan Information, Communications, and Media (BICM) amendment bill, scheduled to be submitted to the first parliament of the next government, next year.

The added protections, which fall under the bill’s chapter seven, on provisions related to cyber offenses, addresses issues that have emerged since the present BICM legislation was enacted in 2006.

It is pointed out in the bill that whoever, by means of any ICT facility, apparatus, or computer “cheats by personating”, shall be charged with a felony of the fourth degree, or may be required to provide additional compensation, as determined by a court, based on gravity of the crime.

The issue of impersonation online emerged in the media recently, when it was highlighted by the prime minister during the last national graduate orientation program.

The prime minister referred to an account on the social media platform, Twitter, that appeared to be impersonating him.

Another related section that has received an upgrade concerns online harassment. The bill now provides a specific definition to aid in identifying online harassment. The section defines online harassment as the “persistent conduct, which is calculated, or likely, to cause insult, injury, intimidation, enmity, obstruction, stalking, annoyance, distress, or extreme irritation to any person, making use of such ICT device, apparatus or facility, or system.”

The bill’s chapter seven includes a specific section to protect children. It is pointed out that whoever publishes, distributes or transmits, or causes to be published, distributed, or transmitted, any obscene communication or material depicting children engaged in sexually explicit acts or conduct, shall be a guilty of an offense equivalent to a felony of the third degree, or may be required to provide compensation as determined by a court.

The same punishment can be handed out for creating texts or digital images, and collecting, seeking, browsing, downloading, advertising, promoting, exchanging, such materials depicting children in obscene, indecent, or sexually explicit manners. Additionally, facilitating the abuse of children through any ICT facilities or services, and recording any form of abuse or sexual acts against children, is also punishable as a third degree felony.

So far, there have been no such known incidents recorded in Bhutan.

The bill also adds a new section concerning bodily privacy. It is pointed out that whoever intentionally captures, publishes, or transmits the image of a “private area” of any person without his/ her consent, violates the bodily privacy of that person, and can be punished with a felony of the fourth degree.

Since 2009, cases of locally produced pornography have occasionally been reported, and shared through ICT devices and services.

Cyber terrorism is also covered in the bill. Intent to threaten the sovereignty, security, unity, and integrity of Bhutan, or the interests of friendly relations with foreign states, by denying or causing denial of access to any person authorised to access any computer or network, attempt- ing to penetrate or access any computer or network without authorised access, or introducing any computer contaminant, is defined as cyber terrorism.

By using such means, which cause or are likely to cause injuries and death to persons, damage and destruction of property, and disruption of services essential to the life of the community will be treated as a felony of the first or second degree, as determined by a court, it is pointed out.

Identity theft is also addressed. Using the electronic signature, number, password, code, or any other unique identification feature of a person, shall be punishable as a felony of the fourth degree, it is stated in the bill.

Other sections concerning cyber offenses such as hacking, receiving computer material or data that is stolen, obscene communications, and online gamling, remain largely unchanged.

The bill removes one section that prohibited online protest websites, which undermine the sovereignty, security, integrity, and peace of Bhutan. This aspect is now covered under cyber terrorism.

Like the present Act, the territorial scope of the bill, if enacted, will cover any person, regardless of nationality or citizenship, whether the offense was committed within or outside Bhutan.

The bill adds a new section that allows the government, for the purpose of providing expert opinion on computer evidence before any court, to designate any department, body or agency of the government, or any third party authorised by the government, as an examiner of electronic evidence.

This story from KUENSEL

KUENSEL is Bhutan's national newspaper. Founded in 1967, KUENSEL is Bhutan's oldest newspaper.