The decision by a Ugandan court to struck down a portion of a communication legislation that had been applied to to charge journalists and government critics has been welcomed by rights groups.
According to a ruling delivered on January 10, a Ugandan court found Section 25, which imposed prison terms of up to a year for anyone using electronic communication to disturb the peace, to be “vague, overly broad and ambiguous,”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in a statement published on their website, has hailed the decision as a step in the right direction.
“The Ugandan constitutional court’s decision to nullify provisions of a law criminalizing ‘offensive communication’ is a great relief, as authorities have repeatedly used this legal tool as a cudgel against critical journalism and commentary,” observed Muthoki Mumo, CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative.
She adds: “Authorities must reform other problematic sections of the Computer Misuse Act that could be used to criminalize the work of the press and ensure that all of the country’s laws are compatible with the standards of freedom of speech in a democratic society.”
Ugandan Judge Kenneth Kakuru of the Constitutional Court wrote the lead verdict on behalf of a panel of five judges and stated that this portion of the statute “is unjustifiable.”
In October 2022, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill, 2022 that penalised citizens who violated privacy of others, or tarnished their reputation online, something that would have sent one for a five-year jail term.
The Bill had been tabled by Kampala Central Member of Parliament Muhammad Nsereko and passed by Parliament.