from HASSAN ONYANGO in Kampala, Uganda
KAMPALA – IT is feared a bill signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni will further restrict freedom of expression online and might be weaponized against critics and political opponents in Uganda.
Last Thursday, the president assented to the amendment of six sections of the Computer Misuse Act, 2011, which critics argue was already repressive.
The Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act bars individuals convicted under the new legislation from holding public office for ten years, reinforces state control over online freedom of expression, including by political opposition groups.
Leaders or public officers will also be dismissed or forced to vacate office upon conviction.
Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, said the legislation threatens the right to freedom of expression online, including the right to receive and impart information, on the pretext of outlawing unsolicited, false, malicious, hateful, and unwarranted information.
“It is designed to deliberately target critics of government and it will be used to silence dissent and prevent people from speaking out,” the activist said.
While it has useful provisions regarding protection of the right to privacy, including child protection and responsible coverage of children, it introduces punitive penalties for anyone accused of so-called hate speech.”
Those found to have breached the law face fines of up to Sh15 million (about US$3 940) and imprisonment of up to seven years.
Mwananyanda urged authorities to repeal this legislation.
“Ugandans must be able to exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear of being targeted by the criminal justice system.”
Museveni (78) is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, in power since 1986. Critics accuse him of using crackdowns to maintain power.
In the last three years, Amnesty International has reported that at least two activists linked with opposition parties, Stella Nyanzi and Kakwenza Rukirabashaija ,who are both in exile, faced cybercrime related charges in court.
– CAJ News