Battle on new cybercrime law moves to court

[Photo: Courtesy]

The new law on cybercrime is against freedom of expression and right to privacy, a court heard yesterday.

Geoffrey Maina, through lawyer Peter Wanyama, filed a suit before the High Court, challenging the constitutionality of the Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Act.

President Uhuru Kenyatta assented to the new law last Wednesday. Mr Maina argued that the Government’s ability to spy on people’s WhatsApp and Facebook accounts without their consent or court orders was an infringement on their right to privacy.

He claimed that the authorities would use the law to muzzle anyone who held a contrary opinion. Maina added that the hefty fines introduced were meant to silence Kenyans, most of whom could not afford to pay the millions of shillings demanded.

Fair trial

“The Act threatens among others Kenyans’ rights to privacy under Article 31 of the Constitution, freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of the media and the right to fair trial,” said Mr Wanyama. There was an overlap as the laws on defamation, hate speech and misuse of gadgets provided for similar punishments, he added.

 “Even more worrying is the fact that the Act sets out harsh penalties that might serve to impede the right of access to information as whistleblowers would fear that they might be subjected to these punitive laws,” Wanyama said.

The contested law went through Parliament despite protests from the media that it could be used to stifle press freedom.

Cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying, publishing false information, child pornography, cyber espionage and computer forgery could earn you two years in jail or a fine of Sh5 million and 30 years or Sh20 million in fine. Sharing false news and spreading hate speech has a Sh5 million fine or a two-year prison sentence, or both.