Ugandan TikToker Arrested for Criticizing Troubled Legacy of Dead General · Global Voices in English

A screen shot of Teddy Nalubowa in the dock (L) of a courtroom in Kampala, Uganda, where she was charged with defamatory communications about her statements about the death of the former security minister.

Ugandan TikToker Teddy Nalubowa (aka Tracy Manule Bobiholic) was indicted by Ugandan daily The Monitor in September.

General Elly Tumwine, a retired Ugandan military officer and senior military representative in parliament, died on August 25, 2022 in Kenya of lung cancer. Tumwine’s death has sparked public debate about his “ambiguous legacy,” blogger Rey Ley reports. Tumwine led troops that killed more than 50 civilians during protests that followed the arrest of opposition politician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (aka Bobi Wine) in 2020. As security minister, Tumwine told reporters that “the police have the right to shoot and kill you if you reach a certain level of violence. I repeat: the police have the right to shoot and kill and die for nothing,” says Monitor.

After 13 days in custody and without legal representation, Nalubowa was arraigned in the Kampala Magistrate’s Court, where she was charged with offensive communication contrary to section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011. The TikToker will remain in prison until September 26, when the case will return to court.

We can’t let the dead continue to brutalize!

27-year-old Ugandan Teddy Nalubowa was charged with offensive communications contrary to the Computer Misuse Act 2011 and had no legal representation after spending more than 10 days in custody for celebrating Tumwine’s death.

Law on Misuse of Computers (2011) and Draft Law on Amendments to the Constitution (2022)

The 2011 Computer Misuse Act provides for “the security and protection of electronic transactions and information systems; to prevent illegal access, misuse or abuse of information systems, including computers”, and “to ensure that electronic transactions are conducted in a trusted electronic environment”.

However, Articles 24 and 25 of the 2011 law are problematic with their nebulous definition of “virtual harassment” and “offensive communication”. Virtual harassment, according to the law, means using a “computer” to make “obscene, promiscuous, indecent or indecent access” (“request, suggestion, or proposal”) or threatening “physical injury or damage” to a person or to that person’s property, or “knowingly [permitir] that any electronic communication device is used for any of these purposes.” The penalty for cyber harassment is “a fine not exceeding 72 coin points or imprisonment not exceeding three years or both.” Similarly, the 2011 law defined offensive communication as “the intentional and repeated use of electronic communication to disturb or attempt to disturb the peace, quiet, or right to privacy of any person without the purpose of legitimate communication, whether or not the conversation is being conducted.” or not”. The punishment for this is “a fine of up to twenty-four fine points or a prison sentence of up to one year or both.”

Carrie Davis of AfricanLII at the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town further states that these two sections of the 2011 Act were instrumental in crushing Ugandan dissidents and activists. In January 2022, Ugandan writer Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was charged under the abusive communications clause of the Computer Misuse Act 2011, after spending a month in custody, for writing that the president’s son was fat. Academician and writer Dr. Stella Nyanzi was arrested in 2018 for offensive Facebook posts in which she called the president a “pair of bums.”

On 8 September 2022, the Parliament of Uganda passed the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill 2022, which will replace the Computer Misuse Act 2011 as approved, while prohibiting the sharing of information concerning children without the consent of a parent or guardian . Increasing the list of criminal offenses for which persons can be arbitrarily detained.

However, the Cooperation on International ICT Policy in Eastern and Southern Africa (CIPESA) described the bill as “a draconian law that criminalizes digital technologies and greatly reduces digital rights”:

Among the key regressive provisions is the ban on “misuse of social media”, described in Article 6 as the publication, distribution or sharing of information prohibited under Ugandan law. The offense carries a severe penalty: imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of up to UGX 10 million ($2,619), or both. Other retrogressive provisions in the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill 2022 are a ban on sending or sharing unwanted information via a computer and a ban on sending, sharing or transmitting malicious information about or about any person.

Among the key regressive provisions is a ban on the ‘misuse of social media’, described in Article 6 as the publication, distribution or sharing of information prohibited by Ugandan law. The crime carries severe penalties: imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of up to UGX 10 million ($2,619), or both. Other retroactive provisions in the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill 2022 are a ban on sending or sharing unwanted information by computer and a ban on sending, sharing or transmitting malicious information about or about any person.

Likewise, Ugandan lawyer Andrew Wandera stated that the said law is redundant because the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019 has “already remedied the evil that the law was intended to redress”. The Data Protection and Privacy Act prohibits unauthorized access to personal data with prescribed penalties for any violation. The law also criminalizes sharing information about children without parental consent. Consequently, the Bill on Misuse of Computers (Amendment) merely duplicates what is provided by law.

Unfortunately, this means that the government is officially widening the net to deal with citizens like TikToker Teddy Nalubowa, for merely expressing an opinion that differs from the official one.

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