‘We Already Have More Than Enough Laws To Regulate Media’: Ministry Of ICT Moves To Dustbin MP Muhammad Nsereko’s Proposed Computer Misuse Amendment Bill

‘We Already Have More Than Enough Laws To Regulate Media’: Ministry Of ICT Moves To Dustbin MP Muhammad Nsereko’s Proposed Computer Misuse Amendment Bill

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By Monica Kobusiinge

Kampala: The Ministry of ICT and National Guidance has revealed that it wants the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill Proposed by Kampala Central MP Hon. Muhammad Nsereko halted and withdrawn.

It’s worth noting that on 18 July 2022, Nsereko tabled the Computer Misuse Bill, 2022 seeking to amend the Computer Misuse Act of 2011, arguing that existing laws “do not specifically address regulation of information sharing on social media” or are “not adequate to deter the vice” something that has since attracted huge criticism from concerned Ugandans.

However, according to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, Aminah Zawedde, her Ministry is in the process of bringing an encompassing bill (Information and Communications Bill, 2022) to address gaps in the ICT sector therefore no need for the amendiment.

The move comes after Members of the Independent Online Journalists Association-Uganda (INDOJA-U) and other stake holders in the civil society organizations called for the dismissal of Nsereko’s proposed ammendment noting that Uganda already has enough laws and only needs to review, strengthen and implement the existing laws to regulate information sharing and distribution on social media.

While appearing before the ICT committee last week, INDOJA- U President who is also an executive member on the National Association Of Broadcasters (NAB), Andrew Irumba Katusabe with other Association’s members along with their legal representative Joel Mucunguzi of Signum Advocates told the committee that the proposed bill, in its entirety, seeks to kill investigative journalism and has been brought in bad faith.

”Regarding the proposed introduction of Section 22A, the Investigative Journalist has to ask for consent.  Who will give us consent and authorization to run a story about the starving street children that need help and support most of them females that are being sexually abused and assaulted? Should we leave them to suffer simply because we lack authorization?” Irumba questioned the Committee.

Adding that ”furthermore, there are many scenarios where it’s the parents and guardians who are
mistreating these children, so what would you advise a neighbor to do in such a situation? To let the child die or inform the police and be arrested for sharing information about the children without authorization? I can authoritatively conclude that this amendment is going to bring a clog against the protection of children’s rights yet these are the future of this when I and the framer of this bill are long gone.

Hon. Nsereko, is suggesting that if I find him urinating on a roadside and therefore becoming a nuisance, for me to take that video or photo evidence, I must first seek his permission.

”So it’s upon this background that I would opine the framers of this bill have a hidden agenda of misinforming the public using the media platforms that they have control over and the cropping online media platforms are being a challenge since they feel they are not under their control.”

Irumba’s  proposal was also backed by Michael Aboneka, an advocate with Thomas and Michael Advocates saying the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill 2022 that is before Parliament duplicates provisions in existing laws.

According to Aboneka, among the existing laws that cure issues raised in the proposed Bill are the Constitution, the Children Act, the Human Rights Enforcement Act 2019, the Penal Code Act, the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019 and the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act.

Aboneka who also appeared before the ICT Committee on 10 August 2022 to present views on the proposed Bill, observed that certain provisions of the current Computer Misuse Act do not clearly spell out the ingredients of the offence of offensive communication further noting that this tends to re-enact what Courts have already declared unconstitutional.

Furthermore, the mover of the Bill ought to allow as much possible public participation in form of petitions, protest notes, consultations and legal commentaries on the proposed law.

“We should focus our energies in implementing the existing laws to the latter and reviewing/repealing laws that do not conform to the human rights standards to bring them in line with the Constitution,” Aboneka said.

Aboneka called for deletion of the proposed amendments citing duplication of an already existing legal regime.

He cited Clause 4 of the Bill that seeks to introduce a section [23A] on hate speech, that states that, ‘a person shall not write, send or share any information through a computer, which is likely to ridicule, degrade or demean another person, group of persons, a tribe, an ethnicity, a religion or gender’.

According to Aboneka, the proposed Bill gives instances in which the offence of hate speech may occur and not what institutes the offence.

He added that the offence as per the Bill is hinged on the resultant action rather than the intention of the person sharing the information. “Who will determine the nature and magnitude of hostility and divisions? What happens when the accused person is not in possession of the computer at the time the information was shared? How shall we deal with this,” Aboneka questioned.

Aboneka also recommended deletion of the clauses related to unauthorized access to information, unauthorized sharing of information about children, unsolicited information, prohibition of sharing misleading or malicious information and restriction on holding public office.

“Before any law passes, there is a regulatory impact assessment. I want to beseech the chairperson to task the mover to produce the assessment of this Bill before the Committee. It will give reasons why the Bill is needed,” he said.

 

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