Journalists’ Associations want Computer Misuse Bill thrown out of Parliament

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Courtesy of Parliament Press

The Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) and the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA) want Members of Parliament to throw out the Computer Misuse Amendment Bill, 2022.

The journalist’s associations opine that the proposals in the bill infringe on freedom of speech the press and hinder aspects of investigative journalism and holding leaders accountable.

While appearing before the ICT and National Guidance Committee on Thursday, 25 August 2022, the journalists said the bill is a duplication of already existing legislation.

Moses Mulondo, the UPPA President said that whereas they agree with the proposal to protect children from the advent of new media and the computer, this is already catered for in the Data Protection and Privacy Act and the mover of the bill simply seeks to curtail freedom of expression.

“The privacy of children is already catered for in Section 8 of the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019 which candidly prohibits the publication of a child’s data/information without authorization from the parents or guardians,” he said.

On the proposal that seeks to curb the publication of malicious and false information, Mulondo said it is already catered for in the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) ACT in section 60 which provides for the creation of a Uganda Communications Tribunal to handle cases of professional misconduct and that nine years later, the tribunal is yet to be established.

He added that Kampala Central MP, Hon. Muhammad Nsereko should push for the establishment of a Uganda Communications Tribunal which is already provided for in the UCC Act and is supposed to hear and determine all matters relating to communication services arising from decisions made by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).

On the proposal stopping the interception of a person’s data, information, voice or video records without their consent, Mulondo said the proposal contravenes constitutional provisions and laws that guarantee freedom of expression and press like Articles 29 and 41 of the Constitution which provide that every citizen has a right of access to information in the possession of the state.

“If the amendment to section 12 of the Act is passed by Parliament, it would kill journalism in Uganda which largely thrives on investigations that involve obtaining information about individuals and organizations without their permission,” he said.

The Executive Director of HRNJ-U, Robert Ssempala, said that the right to privacy, the prohibition of unlawful access to data and the spreading of false information are already catered for in the existing laws.

Nsereko who also appeared before the committee defended the proposed amendment saying it will regulate social media and other media platforms especially when it comes to propagating fake news.

He said the law will make people who want to take up leadership positions responsible and discourage them from sending and publishing malicious, fake, and derogatory messages.

“We are not talking about responsible journalism; responsible journalists know their professional ethics. People know how to sue media houses or a journalist. There are laws protecting journalists and where and how they get their information,” Nsereko said.

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