President Yoweri Museveni has signed into law the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which was passed by parliament recently.
Sponsored by Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko, the law makes it a crime to write, send or share hateful, unsolicited, misleading, or malicious information online.
The law also criminalizes the use of photos on social media without the express permission of the owners. The act also prohibits sharing information, which is likely to degrade, or ridicule another person, group of persons, tribe, religion, ethnicity, or gender, and about children without the consent of their parents or guardians.
If convicted, a person found guilty of recording another person’s voice or video without their permission and unauthorized access to personal information will be fined Shs 10 million or imprisoned for a term not exceeding 10 years or both.
While justifying the penalty on the floor of parliament, attorney general Kiryowa Kiwanuka said that it was important to provide severe punishment in order for the law to be a deterrent. Museveni signed the bill despite appeals from different sections of the public not to sign it.
Last month, the Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), which advocates for media rights, wrote to the president, saying that the amendment has several clauses that raise more questions than provide answers. He cited clause 2(a), which seeks to make unauthorized access to information an offence.
HRNJ noted that this particular clause fails to define, which information about someone can be shared without one risking legal peril and that it also infringes on the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression and of the media.
“The limitations of this protection have been laid down by the Supreme court of Uganda in the case of Charles Onyango Obbo V attorney general and clearly this bill seeks to go way and beyond that,” HRNJ said in its letter.
It also notes that there is a rise in the concept of citizen journalism where people film and forward rights abuses, which have in the past led to the successful prosecution of perpetrators.
The letter also argues that other clauses such as the one that deals with the privacy of children also disregard the fact that some of the gruesome acts against them are committed by their parents.
"Therefore, if one must seek the consent of their parents to film, let alone circulate such a video, this will perpetuate the abuse of children’s rights," HRNJ noted.
Besides the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act, Museveni has also assented to the Kampala Capital City (Amendment) Act, 2022, the Mining and Minerals Act, 2022, and the Physical Planners’ Registration Act, 2022.
The Kampala Capital City (Amendment) Act, 2022 allows the minister for Kampala to determine the emoluments of the speaker, deputy speaker, and their division counterparts. It also empowers the minister to consult with the ministers of Finance and Public Service to determine the emoluments payable to these political leaders.
The Kampala Capital City Authority (Amendment) Act 2015, which established the positions of speaker and deputy speaker was silent on their facilitation and emoluments.
Parliament later recommended that the KCCA Act be amended to ensure that the minister has powers to determine the emoluments of the political leaders. The Mining and Minerals Act, 2022 which was passed early this year, seeks to organize, register, license, regulate and transform artisanal and small-scale mining.
On the other hand, the Physical Planners’ Registration Act, 2022 provides for the establishment of a Physical Planners' Registration Board to provide for the registration of physical planners in Uganda.
The law also provides a legal framework through which physical planners are regulated and intends to solve the challenges of unplanned physical developments in urban and rural areas, violation of minimum physical planning standards, and abuse of environmentally sensitive areas, among others.