Kenya approves contested cybercrimes law


Kenya has approved a controversial cybercrime law that threatens heavy punishments for people who abuse others on social media or publish fake news.

The Computer and Cybercrimes Bill was signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday although critics have raised concerns it would be used to suppress freedom of expression.

Kenya passes cybercrimes bill

According to Kenya’s cabinet secretary for information, Joe Mucheru, the country’s information ministry spent more than two years getting the bill passed through parliament.

“There was a push to get this bill in place, especially with some of the nuisances that come in with the use this technology,” he said. “This technology is transforming our lives; we must have laws.”

Freedom House is among the international organisation to raise concerns about the legislation, calling it “another step backward for media freedom and online expression in Kenya.”

“By criminalizing the publication of ‘false’ information, the government has overstepped its bounds and become an arbiter of truth on the internet,” Morris Odhiambo, Freedom House’s regional project director for East and Horn of Africa, said in the statement.

“The law’s broadly worded provisions and possible jail terms are ripe for abuse by public officials looking to silence critical reporting online.”

Ambiguous terms

Despite criticism of the bill, Joe Mucheru insist’s Kenyans’ constitutional rights will be protected with the enforcement of the new cybercrimes law.

“The constitution provides very clearly the freedoms of media, so this law has not gone against any of the constitutional requirements that we have already in place,” he said.

However, bloggers in Kenya are also criticising the ambiguous terms defined in the bill, arguing that it will be used to restrict Kenyans’ freedom of expression.

“When you talk of fake news, this is an issue still under discussion,” Kenyan blogger Robert Ali told VOA. “… No state has clearly stated what is fake news. Something which is fake to me may not be fake to you. Some people brand everything they do not agree with as fake news. The law is not fair.”

Featured image: Public domain.

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.