HRNJ to challenge Computer Misuse act in courts of law

By Sophan Niwamanya

Human Rights defenders have vowed to challenge the recently passed Computer Misuse Act in the constitutional court once the law gets gazetted.

This was today revealed by Robert Ssempala, executive director Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRJN-Uganda) while speaking to Journalists from Kigezi Sub region during a two days training workshop to retool social responsibility of Journalists, Ethics and profession at Cephas Inn in Kabale Municipality.

The Computer Misuse Amendment Bill 2022 was introduced by Kampala Central Member of Parliament, Muhammad Nsereko on July 19, 2022, as a private member’s bill, on grounds that existing laws do not specifically address the regulation of information sharing on social media and was passed by Parliament on September 8, 2022.

The act will enhance the provisions on unauthorized access to data, and prohibit the sharing of data relating to children without authorization from their parents or guardians. The law further seeks to prohibit sending or sharing false, malicious and unsolicited information.

Now speaking to Journalists, Ssempala Said that the law intends to kill the spirit of Investigative Journalism, affect regular news gathering and reporting in terms of freedom for expression as per Article 29 of the constitution of Uganda.

He also said that the act has left Journalists in a state of confusion for instances in circumstances whereby they are likely to be denied access to information. He adds that the act will kill citizen Journalism whereby it has been helping to expose wrong doers in the society by exposing them to videos and audios.

He added that the law’s mission is to favor powerful people by pushing themselves from public scrutiny, Civil servants that mis-use office and power and also hinder the media from playing watchdog role.

He also said that in seek of things to challenge the act, numbers of senior Journalists, Human Rights Lawyers, members of civil society and public are meeting waiting for the law to be gazetted and challenge it to constitutional court.

The Uganda Computer Misuse Act was enacted in 2011 to enhance safety and security in the increasingly digitised environment, including through the prevention of unlawful access, abuse or misuse of information systems including computers and securing the conduct of electronic transactions.

Once the law is gazetted, sharing unwanted information through a computer will now earn the suspect five-year imprisonment or a sh16m fine.