MPs pass controversial computer misuse law

Parliament on September 8, 2022 passed the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill 2022 targeting critical voices online.

What you need to know:

  • It also criminalises the writing, sending or sharing of any information through a computer, which is likely to ridicule, degrade or demean another person, group of persons, tribe, ethnicity, religion, or gender; create divisions among persons, a tribe, an ethnicity, a religion or gender; and or, promote hostility against a person, group of persons, a tribe, an ethnicity group, a religion or gender.

Parliament yesterday passed the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill 2022 targeting critical voices online.
The legislation that has been panned by a list of stakeholders, including the Ministry of ICT’s Permanent Secretary, Ms Aminah Zawedde, who requested that it be withdrawn, proposes a raft of punitive measures against people who send malicious information, hate speech, unsolicited information and sharing information about children without the consent of their parents or guardians.

It also criminalises the writing, sending or sharing of any information through a computer, which is likely to ridicule, degrade or demean another person, group of persons, tribe, ethnicity, religion, or gender; create divisions among persons, a tribe, an ethnicity, a religion or gender; and or, promote hostility against a person, group of persons, a tribe, an ethnicity group, a religion or gender.

Though passed with modifications to the original draft, the Bill places a criminal burden on citizens who would want to put to account those responsible for managing the day-to-day affairs of the country and imposes heavy penalties on such citizens who may share information the authorities deem malicious on social media. The Bill was passed with scarcely any audible yes to combustible proposals put to the MPs for consideration. 
Amid heckling voices by a section of dissatisfied MPs, Speaker of Parliament Anita Among told them to seek legal redress.
“Honourable Members, I can hear some of you say we are going to court. If you want to go to court please do. Let’s create work for the court,” Ms Among said.

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Background
The legislation mooted by Kampala Central MP Mohammad Nsereko, who during the plenary yesterday was represented by Kazo County MP Daniel Kimosho, seeks to police communication, including the Internet.
The Mawogola County MP, Ms Gorretta Namugga, who authored the lone minority report, attempted to put up a spirited fight, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.
Some MPs were, however, uneasy, as history has shown that one day they could fall victim to the same obnoxious legislation. 
They rejected the proposal that a person found guilty and convicted of an offence of recording a person’s voice or video without permission, or unauthorised access to their personal information, be ineligible for public or elective office for a decade and imposes a fine of Shs15m or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or both. 

The legislators argued that the punishment is severe and that it infringes on the rights of individuals found guilty.
The Attorney General, Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka, said the punishment for an offence must be deterrent enough and agreed with the committee that it should stand at 500 currency points or Shs10m.

“The decision of the penalty is for the legislature to determine what they believe is the correct penalty for the offense that has been committed. The penalty for these offenses should be a deterrent to prevent further commission of the offenses,” he said. This was in response to a proposal by Kumi MP Silas Aogon to raise the 500 currency points to 800 currency points (Shs16m). 

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