The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta has signed a new law that criminalizes fake news and online bullying as part of efforts to fight cyber-crime.
Among the issues the Act will tackle include computer systems such as unauthorized access, unauthorized disclosure of passwords, cyber espionage, publication of false information, child pornography among others. This Bill amends various provisions of the Public Trustee Act, bringing it into conformity with the Constitution.
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. Pundits say this can easily be used to crack down on critical coverage of the Government, its officials and agencies. Such offences could land a culprit in jail for a term of not more than 10 years or be slapped with a Ksh.20 million fine or both.
The Computer and Cybercrimes Bill, 2017 states that any person who violates one of the 17 offences outlined by the Bill will be convicted and sentenced to fines or imprisonment, depending on the offence.
Those found guilty of spreading or in possession child pornography face a fine of Sh20 million or 25 years in prison or both.
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The Act also deals with computer forgery, computer fraud, cyber harassment, publication of false information, cybersquatting, identity theft and impersonation, phishing, interception of electronic messages or money transfers, willful misdirection of electronic messages and fraudulent use of electronic data among other cyber crimes.
Through his Twitter handle, Statehouse spokesman, Manoah Esipisu announced the signing of the Bill by the President into law yesterday, sparking online uproar among media stakeholders.
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.