Opinion: Who will protect you when the cyber bullies come for you?

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By Timothy Amanya

While the political dust is kicked in the sky, teargas canisters flying to mutilate people’s limbs and form a dark cloud over our heads, the fingers on personal computer keyboards have not taken a break either; for both good and bad reasons. what we type with our phone or computer keyboards is yet another heavy cloud to worry about in this “scientific” campaign.

The cyber harassment is on the raise, yet there are very many hurdles impending the fight against it, in an electoral season like this, it is unfortunate, cyber harassment will be a political tool more especially against female candidates. As a tool, it is not new in the global political land scape.

During the 2016 USA congressional elections, candidate Erin Schrode of Northern California district woke up to ten thousand cyber harassment messages on her email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, this emotionally distressed her and affected her pace in the race. On the African continent, the same tool was used to silence Diane Rwigara, a presidential hopeful in Rwanda elections.

In the above scenarios, no serious investigations were done to bring the perpetrators to book, yet cyber harassment dines and wines with the copious odds stacked against women in political races, more especially in patriarchal society like ours that condemn female victims of online harassment.

Cyber harassment has become commoner with the use of the internet

A UN Women report titled 'Cyber violence against Women and Girls: A World-wide wake-up call,' claimed that women are 27 times more likely than men to be harassed online. Another report by Pollicy, a Tech research company based in Kampala, found that 75 percent of women interviewed suffered from mental stress and anxiety due to their experiences of online violence. The problem is in how women respond, the report further indicated that 63 percent of Ugandan women responded by blocking or deleting the perpetrator; 25 per cent ignored the perpetrator and 11 per cent deleted or deactivated their own accounts, the reactions entrench and widens the cyber exclusion gap between men and women.

The protection of women online, needs both a psychosocial and effective and a stout legal approaches that protect women against cyber harassment. The legal regime regulating the cyber space is sufficient to protect women, but the efforts from the rollers of the justice chain; police investigators, are aptly insufficient.

The lackadaisical investigations by police officers in matters related to Cyber-crimes continues to throw a spanner in the work of Courts. Early this year, Justice Dr. Henry Peter Adonyo nullified the trial of Dr. Stella Nyanzi in the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s court on the premise that the lower court did not have the territorial Jurisdiction to try the accused who was charged with cyber harassment.

One of investigating officer in that case claimed to have activated the accused/appellant’s Facebook account and identified the accused, but never pointed out the exact location of the accused/appellant, and he was faulted for that. The court further stated that the investigating officer ought to have followed procedures like applying to a micro blog platform, Facebook to disclose the digital footprint of the Dr. Stella Nyanzi.

The standards set in this case are worth celebrating for protection of the right to freedom of expression and assembly, yet it seems so high for the short hands of a malaequipped and technically limping police force in the cyber world. In this political season, victims are likely to suffer condemnation without redemption.

The best alternative as we wait for sleeping law enforcers, social media users must always be alive to the kind of content they post and the effect it might have to a target of cyber-harassment, we can do our part.

By Amanya Timothy

Legal practitioner.

Email: [email protected]

 

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