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Ugandan Online Media Owners Urge MPs to Overhaul New Cyber Law

 

The Independent Online Journalists Association-Uganda (INDOJA-U) has called for an overhaul of the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill.

The bill proposed by Kampala Central Member of Parliament, Hon. Muhammad Nsereko among other things prohibits the sharing of any information relating to a child without authorisation from a parent or guardian, the sending or sharing of information that promotes hate speech, and provides for the prohibition of sending or sharing false, malicious, and unsolicited information among others.

The Independent Online Journalists Association now wants the committee on Information Communication Technology (ICT) to overhaul the bill which they say inhibits free speech and freedom of expression.

Appearing before the ICT Committee on Tuesday, 09 August 2022 was chaired by Hon. Nathan Nabeta Igeme, the President of the Association, Andrew Irumba Katusabe said that most of the issues the bill is seeking to address are already addressed in other laws like the provisions that duplicate the Data Protection and Privacy Act, the Penal Code Act, the Interception of Communications Act, which if deleted leave the bill hollow.

He said the proposal which states that a person who without authorization accesses or intercepts any programme or another person’s data or records another person’s voice or video, shares any information about another person commits an offence limits research, investigative reporting, and holding people accountable.

“ I am a journalist; if  I am investigating someone on corruption allegations which in most cases is done stealthily and the law says I must first get his permission, is that still investigative journalism?,” Irumba asked.

Irumba also added that journalists, do self-regulate but also several online platforms like Twitter, and Facebook among others have efficient systems of checking for fake news, crime, and hate speech among others which have resulted in the removal of some accounts.

The idea is that they should at least do better benchmarking looking at the different cybercrimes in other countries and borrowing them, instead of creating different crimes

Joel Mucunguzi, the legal advisor to the association said that Nsereko’s bill should have looked at regulating cyber flashing where obscene pictures are sent to strangers online, cyber harassment, and revenge pornography and not working towards crippling freedom of expression.

He said the proposed law takes away the powers of writers, and journalists to express themselves and yet these are fundamentals when it comes to free speech.

“They could amend and repeal those provisions, especially in relation to freedom of speech; the idea is that they should at least do better benchmarking looking at the different cybercrimes in other countries and borrow them, instead of creating different crimes,” he says.

Hon. Bashir Kazibwe, the Kawempe South Member of Parliament tasked the members of the online association to explain how they ensure their members meet the minimum standards.

Ibanda District Woman MP, Hon. Jane Bainomugisha said that the rate at which people are being harassed is alarming.

Nabeta, the chair of the committee asked the online media owners to write a detailed statement in regards to their objections to the new bill.

She says for instance posting a man or woman on the news or social media because of an ailment she or he has should be regulated.

Nabeta, the chair of the committee asked the online media owners to write to a committee a detailed statement in regards to their objections to the new bill. He says the committee will go on to talk to several stakeholders before it can make its report on the proposal.