KAMPALA –The Constitutional Court in Kampala on Tuesday nullified section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act, which relates to using electronic devices to willfully disturb the peace of another.
The said section constituted a charge of offensive communication that carried a maximum penalty of up to five years upon conviction.
In a unanimous decision of five justices, it was agreed that section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act be scrapped for not only being vague or overly broad to define the actual offence committed but also curtails the inherent freedoms of speech and expression that are guaranteed in the 1995 Constitution of Uganda.
The panel led by Deputy Chief Justice, Richard Buteera ruled that it would be unjustified to maintain this section of the Act in a free and democratic society when Uganda convened international treaties on freedoms and people’s rights.
The court therefore declared section 25 as ambiguous and irrelevant and proceeded to award costs to the two petitioners including; human rights activists Andrew Karamagi and Robert Shaka.
The quashed section of a communications law had been used to prosecute government critics, journalists and writers, including two who fled the country to exile in Germany, recently.
Under Uganda’s Computer Misuse Act, one of the sections proscribes the use of electronic communication to ‘disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication.”
Constitutional Court Judge Kenneth Kakuru, who wrote the lead judgment on behalf of a panel of five judges, said that section of the law “is unjustifiable as it curtails the freedom of speech in a free and democratic society.”
He declared it ‘null and void’ and banned its enforcement.
No immediate response from government had come through by the time of filing this report.
Rights activists have long complained of Uganda’s various communications laws enacted by the government of President Yoweri Museveni.
Critics conclude that the laws are indiscriminately broad, disguised censorship and that they have mostly been used to punish opponents of Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986.
Dr Stella Nyanzi, a university lecturer and author who earned a huge social media following for her profanity- and vulgarity-laced criticism attacks on Museveni, spent more than a year in jail after she was convicted under Uganda’s electronic communications laws.
She subsequently fled Uganda and now lives in exile in Germany alongside another Ugandan author and international award winner, Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who was also prosecuted under the same laws before he also fled.