The Uganda Law Society has petitioned the Constitutional Court challenging seeking to have some sections of the Computer Misuse Act of 2011 declared null and void.
In the petition, the lawyers’ body says sections 24 and 25 of the Computer Misuse Act are inconsistent with the Constitution because they use vague and subjective terms of cyber harassment and offensive communication.
“The impugned sections are inconsistent with articles 29(1) (a) and article 43(2) (c) of the Constitution in so far as they restrict the freedom of speech and of expression and the restrictions in the impugned sections are not demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society,” Uganda Law Society says in their petition.
The lawyers’ body says the rights to artistic and freedom of speech and of expression are unduly restricted by the sections of the act that they say demands the use of polite language in all publications done through electronic media.
They say that allowing for impolite discourse is necessary in a free and democratic society for artistic and political freedom of expression to thrive.
“There is no public interest protected or human rights violation prevented by this limitation of freedom of expression as required by Article 43 of the Constitution.”
They also say that the law creates and offence of cyber harassment limits freedom of expression accepted in the offline environment.
“Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011 prohibits and makes it an offence for any person to willfully and repeatedly use electronic communication to disturb or attempt to disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication is inconsistent with the constitution.”
A number of people have of recent been charged and jailed through the application of the Computer Misuse Act including motor mouth former Makerere University research fellow, Dr.Stella Nyanzi, Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze and YMCA student Brian Isiko.
A report released last month by the Unwanted Witness, a local based civil society organization accused government of continued efforts to stifle internet freedoms using the Computer Misuse Act of 2011.
“The now notorious cyber law has been widely and repeatedly evoked to arrest, detain and interrogate journalists, activists, bloggers, human rights defenders and opposition politicians in the bid to gang dissent, stifle freedom of speech, and generally violate digital rights,” the report titled, ‘The state of digital rights in Uganda released in January’, said.
“Just like sedition, the Computer Misuse Act, 2011 is used to perpetually keep victims in and out of either police or court rooms since none of the cases has ever been conclusively determined. Section 25 of the Act has been a potent weapon.”
The report has indicated that journalists at 80% were the most affected members of the community by the Computer Misuse Act 2011 in 2018.