12 Lawyers, Journalists Petition Court Over Computer Misuse Act

Kiira Municipality MP, Hon Ibrahim Semujju Nganda
| Photo Credit: Nile Post

Journalists under The Alternative DigiTalk Limited, an online Television have petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking nullification of the recently passed Computer Misuse Amendment Act 2022 saying it offends the citizen’s rights and freedom of speech, expression, and practicing lawful professions.

The petitioners include; Anthony Mukose, Norman Tumuhimbise, Farida Bikobere, Jeremiah Mukiibi, Kato Tumusiime, Lillian Luwedde, Rogers Turyahabwe, Triangle Teddy Nabukeera, Nixon Segawa, Human rights activist Angela Namirembe and lawyers Simon Peter Esomu and Anthony Odor. 

President Museveni last week acceded to this law which is feared to curtail people’s freedoms of expression and also discourage people from seeking accountability from their leaders according to analysts.

In the petition filed by the journalists through their lawyer Peter Alinaitwe at Constitutional Court Registry on Monday, the petitioners contend that the Amendments in this law were not done in good faith and are against several provisions of the constitution.

According to the petition, the law criminalizes receiving and sharing unsolicited information and spells out the punishment to be imprisonment for not less than five years.

“Section 2(a) and (b) of the Computer Misuse Amendment Act, 2022, is inconsistent and in contravention to Articles 2,290 (a) & (b) and (40), and 4 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda respectively in so far they criminalize any access or interception of any program or any person’s data or information, voicing or video recording, sharing of any information, without specifying or defining the said information which offends the rights to freedom of expression, practicing one’s profession and carrying on any lawful occupation, trade or business and access to information.” the petition reads in part.

The petition further questions the procedure adopted by parliament in passing the Computer Misuse Bill as the general public was denied an opportunity to provide their views on the amendments in the preamble; Directive Principles I 1, 2, 8A, 41, 79 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

The petitioners contend that if the sole purpose of this law was to protect the rights of children, Uganda has enough laws in place to protect the children and there is no need to come up with bad ones that restrict freedom of speech and expression.

The petitioners now seek to have the amended sections of the law annulled to protect fundamental human rights.

“Museveni will misuse this law” – Hon Semujju Nganda

Speaking on a CBS radio show, the Kiira Municipality Member of Parliament, Hon Semujju Nganda says that the law wouldn’t have been as bad if it was introduced in a non-Museveni government.

“What Nsereko did was not to introduce a new law, but he made an existing law very harsh. The Misuse of Computer Act was already there, but Nsereko amended it to make it harsher. From what could have been a 300,000/= fine is now 15,000,000/=”, Hon Semujju pointed out.

“I agree with Hon Nsereko that abusing people on social media is not good, but this government will misuse this law. It is like giving a madman a Panga, instead of using it for productive use, the madman will go on to chop off people’s heads”

Former Presidential press secretary, Tamale Mirundi wondered why Hon Nsereko, an independent candidate, presented this bill.

“Why can a Mukafiiri propose a law and the Mufti signs it, that it will help Islam?” He asked. “If this law was indeed good for the government, I would expect the NRM members to have presented it.”

“Hon Nsereko should be careful because this law can be used against him. When Hon Mbabazi was passing the Public Order Management Act, did he know that one day it will be used against him?”

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