Online media owners ask Uganda MPs to change new cyber law
The Independent Online Journalists Association has now requested that the Information and Communication Technology Committee revise the bill, which they claim restricts free speech and expression.
Uganda: The Independent Online Journalists Association-Uganda (INDOJA-U) has demanded that the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill be revised.
The bill proposed by Kampala Central Member of Parliament, Hon. Muhammad Nsereko, prohibits, among other things, the sharing of any information relating to a child without the consent of a parent or guardian, the sending or sharing of information that promotes hate speech, and the sending or sharing of false, malicious, or unsolicited information.
The Independent Online Journalists Association now wants the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Committee to rewrite the bill, which they claim restricts free speech and expression.
The President of the Association, Andrew Irumba Katusabe, testified before the ICT Committee on Tuesday, 09 August 2022, which was chaired by Hon. Nathan Nabeta Igeme, that most of the issues the bill seeks to address are already addressed in other laws, such as the provisions that duplicate the Data Protection and Privacy Act, the Penal Code Act, and the Interception of Communications Act, which if deleted leave the bill hollow.
He claims that the proposal, which states that anyone who accesses or intercepts any program or another person's data without authorization or records another person's voice or video, or shares any information about another person commits an offence, restricts 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 stated that while journalists self-regulate, several online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, among others, have efficient systems for checking for fake news, crime, and hate speech, among other things, which has resulted in the removal of some accounts.
According to Joel Mucunguzi, the association's legal advisor, Nsereko's bill should have focused on regulating cyber flashing, where obscene pictures are sent to strangers online, cyber harassment, and revenge pornography rather than crippling freedom of expression.
He claims that the proposed law limits the ability of writers and journalists to express themselves, despite the fact that these are fundamental rights to free expression.
“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, Member of Parliament for Kawempe South, has asked the members of the online association to explain how they ensure their members meet the minimum standards.
Hon. Jane Bainomugisha, MP for Ibanda District, stated that the rate at which people are harassed is alarming.
The chair of the committee, Nabeta, asked the online media owners to write a detailed statement about their objections to the new bill.
She believes that posting a man or woman on the news or social media because of a medical condition should be prohibited.
The committee's chair, Nabeta, requested that the owners of online media submit a detailed statement regarding their objections to the new bill. He says the committee will continue to consult with various stakeholders before issuing a report on the proposal.