● Says Press Freedom Must Be Transmogrified Into Media Freedom Now That Includes Social Media
● ‘Some People Must Be Sensitised Even By Force, You Don’t Need To Seek Authority From A Stupid Fellow That He Or She Should Be Taught. That Fellow Must Access By Repetition And Simplification Knowledge Until He Or She Learns’, Argues Lawyer Mbidde
● Believes Law Was Drafted Out Of Anger To Curtailing Access To Information
● He Talks About Redpepper To Justify Media Evolution And Growth
PHOTO: ‘Village Philosopher’ Fred Mukasa Mbidde (right) meeting Next Media boss Kin Kalisa (left). Photo Credit: Next Media
STORY BY THE NEWS EDITOR MEDIA
HON. FRED MUKASA Mbidde of Mbidde& Company Advocates, a law firm on record for winning 5 cases in the East African Court of Justice and many other cases in Uganda is back in court to challenge President Museveni’s newly signed Computer Misuse Act. Counsel Mbidde says it’s a bad law which can’t be allowed on court records!
On Thursday last week, President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill, 2022 that could see citizens who violate the privacy of others, or tarnish their reputation online, given a five-year jail term, pay a fine to the tune on UGX 16M, or both.
The Bill, which was tabled by Kampala Central Member of Parliament Muhammad Nsereko and passed by Parliament on September 22, 2022, provides for a jail term for anybody who shares or sends unsolicited offensive information or hate speech.
Rights activists, journalists and politicians have faulted the new law on Computer Misuse, arguing that it could curtail press freedom and freedom of speech and expression.
In an exclusive interview with the News Editor Media, a leading investigative news Website in Uganda, EALA MP Mbidde argued that, “We can not grant the State capacity to determine what should be published, either on social media or any other media house. It has never been in its powers to determine. That power, a person has it inherently in that, to tell someone use it, you can’t be thanked.”
Mbidde said, it is like driving with your wife in a bus, and she thanks you for not raping her because men rape women.
“It is prudent for any body not to do that. So, they thank you because you have not done it, is like granting freedom. That is why I am going to challenge that act. Because it has a lot of impropriety.” Vows Hon. Mbidde, who doubles as opposition Democratic Party (DP) Vice President.
He says, when you read through the committee report, on what Mps considered to pass the Computer Misuse Act, they are curtailing access to information.
“They are talking about unsolicited information (sharing something unrequested) that it is criminal! No, some people must be sensitised even by force, you don’t need to seek authority from a stupid fellow that he or she should be taught. No! That fellow must access by repetition and simplification knowledge until he or she learns.” Reasons Hon. Mbidde, MD Elsie Hotel (EH) Masaka City.
For starters, the 5 cases Mbidde won before the East African Court of Justice includes;
● Ref No 6 2011: Mukasa Fred Mbidde and Others Vs EAC and the AG of Uganda.
● Ref No 2 of 2012 : Democratic Party Vs Uganda, Kenya, Tanzani, Burundi and Rwanda (then the 5 East Africa Countries with EALA representatives).
● Ref No 5 of 2015 : Mbidde Foundation Vs EAC (saving then Speaker, Rt. Hon Margaret Nantongo Ziwa, a Ugandan).
● Wani Santino Vs Republic of South Sudan
● Burundi Vs EAC (Saving Speaker Rt. Hon Martin Ngoga, a Rwandese).
In Uganda, Mbidde won 32 Cases and applications against the election of Hon. Nobert Mao in 2010 as DP President General.
He is also on record for winning other commercial cases under Mbidde & Co ADVOCATES. This is the lawyer who is running back to court to challenge the newly signed Computer Misuse Act with high chances of his application being successful.
According to this law, a person who uses social media to publish, distribute or share information prohibited under the laws of Uganda, or using a disguised or false identity, commits an offence.
The law also penalises recording of a person’s voice or video without permission, or unauthorised access to their personal information, which human rights activists and journalists have described as dangerous as it would interfere with journalism and collection of evidence for the prosecution in a case of bribery or any crime committed.
Mbidde said, “Ugandans, our problem is having a country which acts as a fire brigade. We don’t seek to look at the future. We just come to bring out fire, period.
The future of this country doesn’t lie in legislature to criminalise acts. It lies in freedoms that will evolve into social responsibility.”
Giving an example of Red pepper News Paper, Mbidde said it started when he was still Guild President Makerere University in his 2nd year.
He reminded us that he had bought Financial Times News paper and renamed it Financial Trends.
“We were publishing stories about economics, analysis and other serious news articles but the people/market looked like they were not interested in our stories. They were instead buying Red pepper which was running what you can refer to as gutter news and Obscenities.” Said Mbidde.
He reminded us a story published by Red pepper of a naked woman standing on top of the table and down the table was a young boy whose eyes were glued at the woman’s private parts and the Headline was, ‘MAP READING’, Mbidde said, Red pepper sold like a hot cake with no returns that day.
“Because Redpepeper was left freely to operate, it evolved into a very serious news paper. To date, Red pepper no longer runs gutter news that is why you see, its editors are arrested over publishing serious political stories not the nude photos they used to run. So Red pepper evolved from where it started to where it is today. It’s a news paper you can trust with your children at home. That emerged from freedom not curtail.” Says Counsel Mbidde who also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication.
Referring to United States of America, Mbidde said, Jefferson, once a President of this great State expoused a principal known as the libertarian theory of communucation.
According to this theory, when you give liberty to communicators, they can misuse it in interim but they grow eventually and evolve into responsible communicators. “That is what has accounted for the growth of the media industry in the USA and several other countries. It grew just like Red pepper and time will come when you will find no obscenity on social media.” Revealed Mbidde.
He gave an example of WhatsApp groups saying when they started, some members would post and share obscenities but it reached a time when group admins clean these groups and now there are groups that discussing serious material.
He says, the newly amended Computer Misuse Act is staypholing rights of social media, and the law framers are forgetting that social media is media.
Mbidde told us that in the past it was called press freedom, because during that time there was no internet.
“That was the media. Press freedom now must be transmogrified into media freedom, now that includes social media. There must be light available to every body to give opinions.” Argues Mbidde.
According to counsel Mbidde, one must be born with freedom to do every wrong thing in terms of speech and information until you get to school and learn.
Mbidde believes this law was drafted in a bad faith, just out of anger.
“You can’t tell me that the law was drafted because someone was on Facebook and insulted you or the Head of State. That means, your are just pouring water on that fire. That man who posts or shares insults will eventually evolve into a responsible communicator the moment he starts losing audience. Then you will see him posting adverts on his page.” Mbidde reasons, adding, “Because if you use the same facebook page to advertise let me say, Geisha, people will say, but you were insulting Kabaka. Then you stop insulting Kabaka. The owner of the page will become a responsible fellow. You don’t need a law to become so. Freedoms must be guaranteed, it doesn’t matter what you use it for in the interim, what matters is how you are going to deal with it.”
Asked whether his going to court won’t jeopardise DP’s cooperation with ruling NRM, Mbidde said, “Our agreement is on the content. Part of it includes an overhaul of the laws of Uganda.”
Let’s watch the space!
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