“Yes, we live in the digital space. But do you have the right to take my picture and use it for your interests?” Muhammad Nsereko, the lawmaker who brought the bill, told the AP by phone Monday.
Opponents of the law say it will stifle freedom of expression in a country where many of Museveni’s opponents — for years unable to stage street protests — often raise their concerns on Twitter and other online sites. Others say it will kill investigative journalism.
Critics range from the Committee to Protect Journalists to Amnesty International, which called the legislation “draconian.”
“This piece of legislation threatens the right to freedom of expression online, including the right to receive and impart information, on the pretext of outlawing unsolicited, false, malicious, hateful, and unwarranted information,” Amnesty International’s Muleya Mwananyanda said in a statement.
“It is designed to deliberately target critics of government and it will be used to silence dissent and prevent people from speaking out.”
While the law has useful provisions such as those protecting the right to privacy, including responsible coverage of children, “it introduces punitive penalties for anyone accused of so-called hate speech,” the statement added.
Museveni, 78, has held power in Uganda since 1986 and won re-election last year. Although he is popular among some Ugandans who praise him for restoring relative peace and economic stability, many of his opponents often describe his rule as authoritarian.