Last Updated on: 31st January 2023, 12:41 pm
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the fundamental principle that communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic media, especially published materials, should be considered a right to be exercised freely.
In Uganda, the framers of our 1995 Constitution steered by the Retired Supreme Court Judge Benjamin Odoki made a strong case in a sui generis Article 29 which lists a raft of freedoms including that of the media.
But typical of any African country where the government in power out of egocentric whims strives as much as possible to gag the media and constrict the space for civilized engagements among here citizenry, so we have seen the country’s Constitution frayed into pieces by the antagonist of press freedom.
So in that same vein, comes in the controversial Computer Misuse Act of 2011 and as amended in 2022 which was eventually assented to by the Chief Executive Officer of this Pearl of Africa nation, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act relates to using electronic devices to willfully disturb the peace of another and carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison once convicted.
So is it not borderline insanity that a Uganda citizen who sits on his Samsung or Techno phone he bought using his or her hard-earned money gets imprisoned for posting on a social media platform that president Museveni’s NRM regime is riddled with corruption to the extent that yearly a colossal sum of money to a tune of shillings 1trillion gets shamelessly stolen from our coffers? Isn’t that the truth anyway!
It should be recalled that the internet penetration in this country now stands at about 15m people despite the hiccups in our internet and ICT infrastructure and they too, have unfettered right access to information and to freely express themselves.
Of course, I am not blind to the fact that there are also erratic Ugandans who needed to be taken to the kindergarten class to learn the basics of using smartphones to save them from the insanity of useless posts that are not only vague but extraneous. But, the bottom line is that it does not warrant such draconian laws.
So, bravo to our gallant and patriotic Justices of the Constitutional Court for quashing and trashing to the dustbin of legal history this draconian section of the Computer Misuse Act, and I here say congrats to Richard Buteera for protecting this prestigious sanctuary of justice.
But as we celebrate this milestone, I am still reminded of the story of the Chichidoodo bird in Ayi Kwei Armah’s book: “The beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born’’. This bird hates maggots but eats feces and we find this in the controversial amendment of the CMA, this time it was proposed by Muhammad Nsereko and I urged the proponents of media freedom not to tarry but continue with the fight.
The author, Frank Oyugi, is the publication’s editor and Director for Strategic Communications at GLCSMS, TND News’ parent organization.