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Digital rights activists head to court as Uganda unveils new social media law

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Uganda , 19 Oct 2022

The Ugandan government has introduced a new law which restricts the use of internet and social media.

Last year, the government vowed to develop a law that would criminalise the spread of what it described as fake and illicit information via social media.

A new Bill, passed by the county’s parliament in September, was proposed by lawmaker Mohammed Nsereko who argued that some people were hiding behind the right to privacy in order to share unsolicited, false, hateful and malicious information online or social media.

Nsereko claimed the existing Computer Misuse Act of 2011, which the country had been using, was not adequate to address or deter social media abuse.

The new law, ratified by the country’s President Yoweri Museveni, lists several offences including the transmission of information about a person without their consent, distribution or share information, using a disguised or false identity online, as well as the sharing or interception of information without authorisation.

Offenders can face hefty fines and/ or up to ten years of prison.

The new law also adds that where “prohibited” information is published, shared or distributed on a social media account of an organisation, the person who manages the social media account of the organisation shall be held personally liable for the commission of the offence with a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment or a UGX10-million fine.

Nsereko said, “Yes, we live in a digital space but do you have the right to take my picture and use it for your interest?”

Digital rights activists have expressed concern and have since launched a legal challenge.

Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa said, “The piece of legislation threatens the right to freedom of expression online, including the right to receive and impact information on the pretext of outlawing unsolicited, false, malicious, hateful and unwarranted information. It is designed to deliberately target critics of government and it will be used to silence dissent and prevent people from speaking out. While it has useful provisions regarding protection to right to privacy, including children protection and responsible coverage of children, it introduces punitive penalties for anyone accused of the so-called hate speech.”

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