Kenya: Cybercrimes Law Restricts Media Freedom

Kenyans posting fake news to pay KSh 5M or 2 years in jail as Uhuru signs Bill into law

President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed into law a Bill that can easily be used by the State to clamp down on media freedom and online critics.

The Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act is aimed at punishing cyber fraud and illegal hacking.

It deals with offences relating to computer systems including but not limited to unauthorized access, unauthorized interference, unauthorized interception, unauthorized disclosure of passwords, cyber espionage, false publications, child pornography, cyber terrorism and wrongful distribution of obscene or intimate images.

WhatsApp group administrators who condone sharing of fake news or information meant to incite ethnic hatred are also marked for severe punishment.

A clause introduced in the bill by the National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale extends the jail term to 10 years if the false information is calculated to cause panic chaos or violence.

According to clause 12 of the law, publishing of a false or fictitious information will attract a Ksh5 million ($50,000) (UGX150million) fine or a two-year jail term.

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"It has a very good Bill and the public should be aware about the penalties because going forward it will not be business as usual", said Duale on Wednesday at Parliament buildings.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has assented to the Computer and Cybercrimes Bill, 2017. Spreading of child pornography will attract a Sh20 million fine or 25 years in prison or both.

Previous attempts to impose some control on social media users were met with accusations that the government was out to limit free speech.

According to the government, the Act contains provisions that will facilitate global co-operation in dealing with computer and cybercrime matters including expedited disclosure of preserved traffic data.

The president signed the Bill despite opposition from the global media freedom watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) which had called on Kenyatta not to sign the Bill because it will stifle press freedom.

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