New Legislation In Uganda Poses Restrictions on Internet Usage
On Thursday, October 13th, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda signed a new law criminalizing certain internet activities, with many worrying that the measure would be used to stifle honest criticism.
The controversial internet usage law from 2011 has been updated with more restrictions and higher consequences.
The new law proposes jail terms of up to 10 years in specific circumstances, including for violations involving the transmission of information about a person without that person’s consent and the sharing or intercepting of information without authorization.
The law, according to the watchdog group Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), is “a blow to online civil liberties.”
The organization has raised concern over a provision of the law it considers backward. This includes “‘the prohibition of the misuse of social media’ described in clause 6 as publishing, distributing, or sharing information prohibited under Uganda’s laws. A highly punitive penalty has been prescribed for the offense is imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of up to UGX 10 million ($2,619 USD), or both.”
With regard to the bill’s potential to curtail press freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists was one of the organizations that asked Museveni to veto it.
Just after the lawmakers passed the bill, Muthoki Mumo, a member of the Committee to Protect Journalists group, stated that “Ugandan legislators have taken the wrong turn in attempting to make an already problematic law even worse. If this bill becomes law, it will only add to the arsenal that authorities use to target critical commentators and punish independent media.”
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Other critics claimed it would limit the right to free speech in a nation where many of Museveni’s opponents frequently voice their complaints on Twitter and other social media platforms because they have been unable to hold public protests for years.
The bill was introduced by a lawmaker who felt it was essential to penalize individuals who use computers to harm others and was approved by the legislature in September.
The legislator made the following claim in support of his legislation: “The enjoyment of the right to privacy is being affected by the abuse of online and social media platforms through the sharing of unsolicited, false, malicious, hateful, and unwarranted information.”
Since 1986, 78-year-old Museveni has ruled the nation in East Africa and was elected to his current term last year.
Although Museveni enjoys support from certain Ugandans who commend him for restoring a modicum of peace and economic stability, many of his detractors frequently characterize Museveni’s reign as autocratic.