Uganda president signs ‘nightmare’ online communications bill News
Uganda president signs ‘nightmare’ online communications bill

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni Thursday signed the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act into law, amending the Computer Misuse Act of 2011. Introduced by Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko, the Act lists imposes punishments on people who send malicious information, hate speech, unsolicited information or information about children without the consent of their parents or guardians.

Section 23(A) creates the offence of “hate speech” and provides that a “person shall not write, send or share any information through a computer” that may “create divisions among persons,” “promote hostility” or “ridicule, degrade or demean another person, group of persons, a tribe, an ethnicity, a religion or gender.” Human rights activists and other stakeholders have argued that the bill was drafted in bad faith to protect the corrupt and penalize those demanding accountability from their leaders. Critics also warn that the bill could squash free speech and cripple electronic commerce.

Nonprofit group Unwanted Witness called the law a “looming nightmare to the freedom of expression and speech” and stated that it infringes Articles 29(1)(a)and 43(2)(c) of the Constitution of Uganda by imposing unjust restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression as well as limiting media freedom. The Collaboration for International Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) recommended that several provisions of the law be deleted because they were vague, redundant and have highly punitive punishments. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) attempted to reach parliamentarians and offer guidance but could not make contact.