Blogger Robert Alai freed on Sh50,000 cash bail over Covid-19 post

Blogger Robert Alai (above) has been released on Sh50,000 cash bail after being arrested and detained for publishing false information about coronavirus.

Alai was accused of publishing false information contrary to section 23 of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act 2018.

His charge sheet read: “On 19th day of March at an unknown place, within the Republic of Kenya, [you] posted on your Twitter account @RobertAlai “Coronavirus: Is Kenya Government hiding Covid-19 related deaths at the Port of Mombasa?” knowing it to be false, and calculated to cause panic and fear among citizens of the Republic of Kenya.”

Alai was arrested on Friday and taken to Muthaiga Police Station where he was locked up over the weekend.

In his post, Alai (pictured) had claimed that the government was concealing crucial information in relation to the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) and that the impact of the disease was much more pronounced than the government was portraying it.

Alai was charged at a Nairobi court before Senior Resident Magistrate M. Ndungi. The court ordered him not to publish any information on Covid-19. He pleaded not guilty.

The Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Act 2018 prohibits the publication of unverified information.  The law spells penalties in forms of fines or jail terms for such offenders.

According to Section 22 (1) of the law: “A person who intentionally publishes false, misleading or fictitious data or misinforms with the 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.”

On March 19, Thursday, before Alai’s arrest and questioning, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe fired a tough warning to those he accused of peddling lies about the government’s handling of the virus.

Kagwe warned of arrests saying that misinformation was jeopardising the government’s efforts to fight Covid-19.

“We will proceed to arrest a number of them to prove our point, and of course since they want something to report regarding coronavirus, we will oblige by taking them to Mbagathi where they can report the matter. Because that’s where the issue of coronavirus can be handled,” he said, adding that, “Persons in the social media are causing concern and panic among citizens.”

On Sunday, Mr Kagwe announced an increase in the number of positive for Covid-19 cases from eight to fifteen. Among them is the Kilifi Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi who tested positive after coming from a trip to Germany.  The government on Saturday came up with a raft of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Among them was reducing the number of passengers in Public Service Vehicles, closure of bars, and restrictions on weddings, burials and religious gatherings.

Kenya Airways also announced the suspension of international flights effective from March 25, Wednesday.

On Monday morning global COVID-19 cases increased to 339,059 as deaths increased to 14,700 in 192 countries.