By Spy Uganda
The Constitutional Court has quashed Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act, 2011 that has been used to prosecute government critics, journalists and writers, including novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija and former Makerere University lecturer Stella Nyanzi who are now enjoying their freedom in exile in Germany.
Constitutional Court of @JudiciaryUG has unanimously annulled Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act, 2011 (offensive communication) & stopped its enforcement immediately. @karamagi_andrew @KMA_Attorneys @IsaacSsemakadde @chapterfourug @drstellanyanzi @KakwenzaRukira @NCHRD_UG pic.twitter.com/ElcJd0AlLJ
— KIIZA ERON (@kiizaeron) January 10, 2023
Under Uganda’s Computer Misuse Act, Section 25 proscribes the use of electronic communication to “disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication”.
Punishments for offenders can range from steep cash penalties to jail sentences of several years.
In a ruling on a petition filed by a rights activist seeking the quashing of that section of the law, the Constitutional Court agreed, saying it violated the constitution.
Constitutional Court Judge Kenneth Kakuru, who wrote the lead judgment on behalf of a panel of five judges, said that section of the law “is unjustifiable as it curtails the freedom of speech in a free and democratic society”.
The panel was comprised of the deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, Kenneth Kakuru, Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Elizabeth Musoke and Monica Mugenyi, they all declared the law “null and void” and banned its enforcement.
Rights activists have long complained of Uganda’s various communications laws enacted by the government of President Yoweri Museveni.
Critics say the laws are indiscriminately broad, disguised censorship and that they have mostly been used to punish opponents of Museveni.
The panel ruled, “Section is unjustifiable as it curtails the freedom of speech in a free and democratic society. Secondly Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act does not specify what conduct constitutes offensive communication. To that extent it does not afford sufficient guidance for legal debate. Thirdly it is vague, overly broad and ambiguous. Therefore, I find that the impugned section is inconsistent with and/or in contravention of Article 29 of the Constitution.”