‘Prioritize implementation of existing laws on computer misuse’

A call to review, strengthen and implement existing laws so as to maintain the rule of law has been made by members of the civil society noting that this will limit duplication of laws.

According to Michael Aboneka, an advocate with Thomas and Michael Advocates, the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill 2022 that is before Parliament duplicates provisions in existing laws.

Among the existing laws that cure issues raised in the proposed Bill are the Constitution, the Children Act, the Human Rights Enforcement Act 2019, the Penal Code Act, the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019 and the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act.

Appearing before the ICT and National Guidance Committee on Wednesday, 10 August 2022 to present views on the proposed Bill, Aboneka observed that certain provisions of the current Computer Misuse Act do not clearly spell out the ingredients of the offence of offensive communication.

He added that this tends to re-enact what Courts have already declared unconstitutional.

He added that the mover of the Bill ought to allow as much possible public participation in form of petitions, protest notes, consultations and legal commentaries on the proposed law.
"We should focus our energies in implementing the existing laws to the latter and reviewing/repealing laws that do not conform to the human rights standards to bring them in line with the Constitution," Aboneka said.

Aboneka called for deletion of the proposed amendments citing duplication of an already existing legal regime.

He cited Clause 4 of the Bill that seeks to introduce a section [23A] on hate speech, that states that, ‘a person shall not write, send or share any information through a computer, which is likely to ridicule, degrade or demean another person, group of persons, a tribe, an ethnicity, a religion or gender’.

According to Aboneka, the proposed Bill gives instances in which the offence of hate speech may occur and not what institutes the offence.

He added that the offence as per the Bill is hinged on the resultant action rather than the intention of the person sharing the information. "Who will determine the nature and magnitude of hostility and divisions? What happens when the accused person is not in possession of the computer at the time the information was shared? How shall we deal with this," Aboneka questioned.

Aboneka also recommended deletion of the clauses related to unauthorized access to information, unauthorized sharing of information about children, unsolicited information, prohibition of sharing misleading or malicious information and restriction on holding public office.
"Before any law passes, there is a regulatory impact assessment. I want to beseech the chairperson to task the mover to produce the assessment of this Bill before the Committee. It will give reasons why the Bill is needed," he said.