Former Presidential candidate Nazlin Umar has faulted President Uhuru Kenyatta for ascending to the Computer and Cybercrime Bill, 2017.
Uhuru signed the Bill into law on Wednesday. The new law targets journalists, media houses, social media users, bloggers and other internet users who predominantly, relay information to the public through various mediums.
It spells punitive measures for anyone spreading false information through electronic media.
“A person who intentionally publishes false, misleading or fictitious data or misinforms with intent that the data shall be considered or acted upon as authentic, with or without any financial gain, commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to both,” reads clause 12 according to Daily Nation.
However, Nazlin says her bone of contention with the new law is that it has “oppressive sections or words in it that conflict the Constitution such as ‘harassment and false information’.”
According to her, she states that these sections could mean anything and “dictators” could use it to arrest, detain and imprison whistle blowers keeping senior government officers on their toes.
“I had advised you against signing for this muzzling Bill. You would have been a hero to the nation today if you had returned it to Parliament with instructions to obliterate the oppressive words first,” notes Nazlin in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
Besides Nazlin, several quarters had also asked the President to reject the Bill and send it back to Parliament with stated amendments. They argued that certain sections were infringing on the right to expression and media rights.
The former presidential candidate highlighted that the new law is in contravention of Articles 32 and 34 respectively of the Constitution which allow freedom of expression.
Article 32 (2) limits freedom of expression only if it propagates war, incite, hate speech and advocate for hatred.
She opines that “cartels” who fear being exposed on social media which is the fastest medium to relay information were bent on ensuring the Bill was signed into law.
“Cartels want to stop online exposers, not to expose their corruption, because this is where we make news go viral,” adds Nazlin.
She further states that she has spoken to activist Okiyah Omtata to challenge the Constitutionality of the law in court.
The Kenya Editor’s Guild in reaction to the signing of the Bill expressed apprehension in the fact that law enforcers could curtail media freedom.
“When the public’s right to know is threatened, and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all of the other liberties we hold dear are endangered,” the editors’ body tweeted.