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13 journalists, lawyers sue govt over Computer Misuse law

The petitioners at court

The petitioners at court

A group of 13 people comprising journalists and lawyers have petitioned the Constitutional court to nullify new amendments in the Computer Misuse Act on grounds that they are illegal and violate the freedom of expression.

The petitioners are Arnold Anthony Mukose, Norman Tumuhimbise, Farida Bikobere, Jeremiah Mukiibi, Kato Tumusiime, Lillian Luwedde, Rogers Tulyahabwe, Teangel Teddy Nabukeera, Nixon Segawa together with their employer Alternative Digitalk Limited, an online TV, activist Angella Namirembe and lawyers Simon Peter Esomu and Anthony Odur.

They have sued the Attorney General through their lawyers; Peter Arinaitwe and Company Advocates. Their suit stems from the decision taken on  September 8, 2022, by parliament to pass the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act, 2022 which was subsequently assented to by the president on October 13, 2022.

The controversial law tabled by Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko 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.

Further, it prohibits sharing information which is likely to degrade or ridicule another person, group of persons, tribe, religion, ethnicity, or gender, and children without the consent of their parents or guardians.

The same act creates a punishment ranging between 5 and 10 years or Shs 10 million or both for people found in breach. It further criminalizes recording another person’s voice or video without their consent and unauthorized access to personal information. But the petitioners argue that the said amendments are overly broad, imprecise, and unjustifiably limit the freedom of expression.

They argue that the amendments criminalize any access or interception of any program or another person’s data or information, voicing or video recording, sharing of any information, without specifying or defining the said information which offends the rights to freedom of expression, practising one’s profession and carrying on any lawful occupation, trade or business and access to information.

According to the petitioners, the phrase “unsolicited information” as used in the amended act is disproportionate, indiscriminate and overly broad in application because it doesn’t clearly specify what amounts to unsolicited information.

The petition is supported by an affidavit of Arnold Anthony Mukose the programs manager at Alternative Digitalk who says that he has 14 years’ experience in journalism but the new law has far-reaching implications on the right to practice journalism as a trade, access to information, pluralism, among others.

“The impugned law has hindered and complicated our work as digital journalists," says Mukose. "In particular as an editor, it is an affront to my editorial independence. At the moment I fear to sanction broadcasts on our media platforms because our content may be treated as offensive and ridiculing by a viewer thus attracting prosecution from the state," said Mukose. 

He adds: "Further, given the fact most our talk shows and programmes are broadcast live on our social media platforms it is impracticable for me as the editor to ensure that the information streamed and shared during the live broadcasts does not ridicule, degrade or demean the viewers since the meaning attached “ridiculing”, “degrading” or “demeaning” varies from one person to another.

According to Mukose the contentious law gags the digital media and users by protecting and shielding the public officials from criticism and therefore these officials must grow a hard skin to withstand such criticism, instead of criminalizing it.

“It is also unrealistic and unjustifiable for hosts of our live talk shows, and me as an editor to determine whether that persons we host in our studios have received prior authorization to share information relating to any person since the discourse during live talk shows is fluid by nature," adds the affidavit.

The petitioners led by Tumuhimbise, the executive director of Alternative Digitalk, thus want the court to declare sections 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the of the Computer Misuse Act as amended to be in contravention of constitutional rights to fair hearing, freedom of expression right to access information among others.

The petitioners who stormed court on Monday with placards with inscriptions such as “this law is worth breaking, “this law is unconstitutional also want the court to stay the implementation of the new law and be paid costs of the petition.

"You know we had thought that President Museveni would have some sympathy and reasonable grounds to send back this law that is why we had even bothered to challenge at even the parliamentary level...As an organisation which runs a media house, we considered it illegal and it's inconsistent with the supreme law especially when it comes to freedom of speech and expression. You see expression in its own definition is expressing how I feel about anything. So the mere fact that someone should come and assess what I should post as part of my expression and what I feel that alone is an illegality," said Tumuhimbise.  

According to Ugandan laws, a law is operationalized once it has been gazetted in the National Gazette which hasn’t yet been done at the moment with the Computer Misuse Act of 2022 as amended.

This is not the first time that the Computer Misuse Act is being challenged. In 2019, the Uganda Law Society challenged the act specifically the sections that create the offences of offensive communication and cyber harassment on grounds that they violate freedom of expression. The Constitutional court is yet to decide on that case. 

Comments

-1 #1 Wainanchi 2022-10-18 11:58
Laws are laws thugs.and every sovereign country reserves its inalienable right to enact laws it deems necessary to do so to protect its security and sovereignty

If you.dumbsters are unhappy go to Saudi Arabia and see their Sharia laws and you will quickly spring back to Mama Uganda where you think you can try your legal expertise.

Why don't you help the government and Police to catch thieves and tackle embezzlement of money and plundering of natural resources.!

Freedom of speech is democratic right but festering lies and steering trouble is not allowed so why dont you hold back to the drawing table and reread your law papers and compare with the existing practices

Each government needs to protect itself again rats and snakes you want to protect
We wish you to show prudence in respecting enacted laws
Otherwise you will be in default
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0 #2 Lakwena 2022-10-18 12:13
In other words, the more corrupt, authoritarian and inhuman a regime; the more Draconian the laws and stranglehold (suffocation).
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+2 #3 Miko 2022-10-18 19:15
[quote name="Wainanchi"]Laws are laws thugs.and every sovereign country reserves its inalienable right to enact laws it deems necessary to do so to protect its security and sovereignty

It might help you to read the Constitution and look at the basis of this case as against the Constitutional Provisions.

You might be very surprised at the fallacy of your arguments once you are seized with a bit more information, What you have posted seems to be based on feelings rather than critical analysis.

But that's your right under the very Constitution that you are appear to suggest is valueless. It is a well known adage that half knowledge is very dangerous.
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-1 #4 Wainanchi 2022-10-19 06:06
@Miko.Wrong and wrong!
Fostering inflammatory and fake news like they do it now in some countries ,notably see what former President Trump is calling fake news, creates false picture if the society.

Nazi Gebels of Germany was infamous for spreading hate and malice and he was later defeated.

Gebels propaganda lured masses of Germans into fatal WWIi and the world lost millions of people because of lunatic Nazi propaganda.

Yes democratic right is to voice different views and opinions but to spread lies and harmful propaganda like spies Lakwena and others are doing is going to.be now censored
Therefore voice truth and Express your thought BUT DO NOT LIE AND HATE.KABISA!!!
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0 #5 Lakwena 2022-10-19 07:59
Quoting Wainanchi:
Laws are laws thugs.and every sovereign country reserves its inalienable right to enact laws it deems necessary to do so to protect its security and sovereignty

Each government needs to protect itself again rats and snakes you want to protect
We wish you to show prudence in respecting enacted laws
Otherwise you will be in default


But Wainanchi, how can honest Ugandans help a dishonest government and corrupt Police to catch thieves and tackle embezzlement of money and plundering of natural resources?

Where were you when Gen Tibuhaburwa told the IGG, Hon Beti O Kamya to back off from auditing the lifestyle of thieves, swindlers (embezzlers) and plunderers of our natural resources?

It is because, the thieves use their loot to build 5-star Hotels and create jobs?
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0 #6 Lakwena 2022-10-19 08:05
In other words Wainanchi, if the government is made up of "rabid rats (like you [Somba byuma]) and venomous snakes (Cobra/mamba)" that you seek help to fight; how can Ugandans stop corruption and plunder of our tax moneys (resources) when Gen Tibuhaburwa is the very one who aids and abet corruption (plunder)?

Where were you on Independence Day (9th Oct 2022), when in the presence of Diplomats and Heads of States from other African Countries, Gen Tibuhaburwa confessed (I am the culprit), shook his fist at us, daring anyone to come beat him because; he is the one in cahoot with Madam Pinetti to rig-fence, monopolize and plunder the Ugandan Coffee Industry?

Wachireba Bashuma?
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0 #7 Wainanchi 2022-10-19 14:20
Lakwena---Rubish and garbage as usual.
Yoi are I'll obsessed against M7 though the whole if Aftiva and speacilly East Africa recognize him as the greatest and most experienced leader of all of Africa, but only Lakeena is I'll obsessed and needs witch do tours to clear her brain or best to change her brain and head.

Luckily the day will come when surgeons will be able to change patients heads like they are doing with hearts and Lakwena will be first testing human to chsngevher head and sick brain.

I remember the first heart transplant done in South Africa.It was indeed miracle.Get ready Lakwena
Hahaha
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0 #8 Miko 2022-10-19 18:57
[quote name="Wainanchi"]@Miko.Wrong and wrong!

With due respect, your views are emblematic of the human tendency to focus on the nut rather than the sledgehammer being employed to crack it.

The examples you draw on, while interesting, do not advance your argument. In my view, they are emotive and seek to prey on people’s fear rather than allow for coherent and logical debate about the legality and legitimacy of passing such a law. Indeed, you make no attempt to relate them to the Act in question.

Feelings and the law have never been good bedfellows. Luckily, we have courts of law and not of public opinion. If you can, speak to even a first-year law student, There is a lot you could learn about The Rule of Law and Constitutionalism.

Incidentally, beware of draconian laws. They tend to come back and bite the very same people who agitate for them for selfish and short-term goals. History is littered with examples of such people, and I do not doubt your ability to find them.
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0 #9 Lakwena 2022-10-20 14:15
Quoting Wainanchi:
Lakwena---Rubish and garbage as usual.
Yoi are I'll obsessed against M7 though the whole if Aftiva and speacilly East Africa recognize him as the greatest and most experienced leader of all of Africa, but only Lakeena is I'll obsessed and needs witch do tours to clear her brain or best to change her brain and head.

Luckily the day will come when surgeons will be able to change patients heads like they are doing with hearts and Lakwena will be first testing human to chsngevher head and sick brain.

I remember the first heart transplant done in South Africa.It was indeed miracle.Get ready Lakwena
Hahaha


In other words Wainanchi, not very many people know what the Devil looks like. Which is why they fall into his traps.
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