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President signs cybercrime law despite oppression fears

President Uhuru Kenyatta. FILE PHOTO | NMG
President Uhuru Kenyatta. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

President Uhuru Kenyatta Wednesday signed a new cybercrime law that outlaws the posting of abusive material on social media, but which critics say could be exploited to repress freedom of expression.

The new law imposes hefty fines and long prison terms for cyber bullies and fake news dealers.

It also targets journalists, media houses, social media users, bloggers and other Internet users.

The assent comes amid calls for the President to revert the law back to Parliament to ensure its provisions are constitutional and do not violate the right to media freedom and expression.

Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged Mr Kenyatta not to assent to the bill, saying it stifles press freedom.

“Kenyan legislatures have passed a wide ranging bill that will criminalise free speech with journalist and bloggers likely to be the first victims if signed into law,” said CPJ’s Africa Co-ordinator Angela Quintal in New York.

According to clause 12 of the law, publishing of a false or fictitious information will attract a Sh5 million fine or a two-year jail term.

A clause introduced by the National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale extends the jail term to 10 years if the false information is calculated to cause panic chaos or violence.

MPs passed the bill last month despite protests from media practitioners and rights activists.

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