The Computer Misuse law provides a five – year imprisonment or a fine of Sh 16 million (US $ 4200) or both, for social media users who send or share “unsolicited offensive information or hate speech”. It states "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.” The new law also criminalises “unauthorised access to data” and prohibits sharing data relating to minors without the consent of their parents.
The President of the Uganda Journalists Union, Lucy Ekadu, said that the new law is draconian and contravenes Article 29 of the Constitution of Uganda, which guarantees press freedom. The law also contravenes Article 41 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to access to information. “We largely view this law as a deliberate and systematic move by the government to intimidate citizens, stifle voices of dissent, suppress freedom of expression, curtail access to information and muzzle media freedom in the country.”
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger, said: “The passing of such a draconian legislation is unacceptable in any democratic society, as it seriously undermines freedom of expression, media freedom and would force journalists to self-censor. Over the past few years, Uganda has passed some of the most repressive laws on the use of the internet in Africa which have suffocated the media in the country and opened the floodgates of arrests and intimidation of journalists and human rights activists.”
The IFJ joins its affiliate the UJU in calling for the immediate and unconditional repeal of this draconian law and urging the government of Uganda to do more in creating a conducive environment for the media to flourish and to guarantee the safety and security of journalists. The Federation reminds Uganda of its obligations towards international conventions it has ratified in respect of media freedom.