BY OKELLO ALLAN
KAMPALA, Uganda|SHIFTMEDIA| Pieces of legislation such as the Computer Misuse Act will jeopardise the forthcoming elections and hinder a smooth and fair electoral process, the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda CCEDU has observed.
Quoting sections 24 and 25, of the Computer Misuse Act which states that posting opinions on social media about important persons attracts the charge of cyber harassment for whoever posts information through social media platforms.
M/s Charity Ahimbisibwe, the Executive Director of CCEDU said critiquing those in power will be a crime under section 25 of the same act and yet critiquing the powers that be in a political season is one way of helping voters decide on the most credible candidate to vote for.
“The Computer Misuse Act was enacted to deal with the question of cybercrime but has not been used fairly by security personnel. Section 25 criminalises the willful and repeated use of ‘electronic communication to disturb or attempt to disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person without the purpose of legitimate communication,” said Ahimbisibwe in a press statement issued on Tuesday.
She noted further: “The Act does not clearly define what ‘offensive communication’, is, it simply refers to communication that ‘disturbs’ someone else’s peace, quiet or right of privacy. This act denies the right to a fair trial because it takes the criminalisation approach and imposes heavy punishments for actions that constitute offences under the Act. Almost all misconduct in this Act is punishable, not corrective.”
For that matter Ahimbisibwe said CCEDU is working with a team of legal AID service providers and organisations that promote the rights of citizens in an Electoral process to study these pieces of law and advise the Electoral Commission on how to apply them without further constraining an electoral process that is burdened by a pandemic.
As part of the guidelines that the Electoral Commission issued for the campaigns of candidates for District/City Lord Mayors, Municipality/City Division Chairpersons, Sub County/Town/Municipal Division Chairpersons, and the respective councillors, the additional pieces of legislation that shall be used to judge whether the process has been adhered to by candidates and voters are The Uganda Communications Act, 2013, The Uganda Communications (Content) Regulations, Act, 2019, The Public Health (Control of COVID – 19) Rules, 2020 (SI 83/2020), The Computer Misuse Act, 2011, The Uganda Communications (Text and Multimedia Messaging) Regulations 2019 S.I 83/2019.
Ahimbisibwe noted that it is mainly Government critics that have been charged using the Computer Misuse Act, which is likely to further constrain an already complicated COVID-19 Election.
The electoral processes and campaigns for District/City Lord Mayors, Municipality/City Division Chairpersons, Sub County/Town/Municipal Division Chairpersons, and the respective councillors are also going to be subjected to the provisions of public health (Control of COVID-19) which particularly infringe on the right to assemble, associate and freedom to move.
“These three rights are key in helping citizens to take part in the conduct of public affairs, including the right to vote and to stand for election. Therefore, since the 2021 electoral processes are prohibitive to the voters in the light of a pandemic, it is prudent that less stringent laws are used in the conduct of electoral processes,” she said.