KAMPALA, UGANDA: President Museveni has signed into law four bills including the controversial Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill 2022 privately moved by Kampala Central MP Hon Muhammad Nsereko.
Other bills include; the Physical Planners’ Registration Act, 2022, the Kampala Capital City (Amendment) Act, 2022, and the Mining and Minerals Act, 2022.
The office of the State House Thursday revealed that the President assented to the bills after they were recently passed by the Parliament of Uganda pending his approval.
The computer misuse bill which now becomes an act of parliament recently faced criticism from several human rights defenders and stakeholders arguing that it was drafted in bad faith, to protect the corrupt while penalising those demanding for accountability from their leaders.
Tough penalties for cyber crimes.
The Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill, 2022 sought to amend the Computer Misuse Act, 2011 to enhance the provisions on unauthorised access to information or data; prohibit the sharing of any information relating to a child without authorisation from a parent or guardian; to prohibit the sending or sharing of information that promotes hate speech.
The Act also listed a raft of punitive measures against people who send malicious information, hate speech, or unsolicited information with a suggested punishment for the convicted person being Shs15 million or a seven-year jail term, if not both.
It also criminalises writing, sending or sharing of any information through a computer, which is likely to ridicule, degrade or demean another person, group of persons, tribe, ethnicity, religion, or gender; create divisions among persons, a tribe, an ethnicity, a religion or gender; and or, promote hostility against a person, group of persons, a tribe, an ethnicity group, a religion or gender.
With the deletion of clauses that sought to bar convicts under the law from holding public office or running for elections in 10 years, the rest of the clauses unanimously sailed through uncontested, with MP Gorreth Namugga (NUP, Mawogola County South) dissenting.
A new clause in the bill, proposed by the ICT committee chairperson, Hon. Moses Magogo, defined social media and created penalties for computer users who take refuge in pseudo accounts.
The clause reads: “A person who uses social media to publish, distribute or share information, prohibited under the laws of Uganda or using a disguised or false identity, commits an offence”.
A person who manages an account of an organisation where this happens will be held liable for the commission of the offence, the bill provides.
The clause proceeded to give a diverse definition of social media to mean, “a set of technologies, sites, and practices which are used to share opinions, experiences and perspectives, and includes YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WeChat, TikTok, Sina Weibo, QQ, Telegram, Snapchat, Kuaishou, Qzone, Reddit, Quora, Skype, Microsoft Team and Linkedin”.
A person who commits the offence under the clause in issue shall, on conviction, suffer either a fine of Shs16 million, five years in jail or both fine and imprisonment.
Social media accounts that are verified will be presumed to be owned by the persons in whose names the accounts are run, unless the contrary is proved.
Also, a person whose telephone numbers and or email addresses have been used in creating social media pages, will be personally liable for prosecution for offences committed under the act as amended.
Hon. Magogo justified the clause as being intended to “provide for the regulation of social media”.
The bill also criminalised and defined unsolicited information, but excused commercial adverts from the categorisation, granting advertisers the liberty to share information with target audiences.