May 30, 2018 / 1:20 PM / 23 days ago

Kenyan court blocks new online rules after free speech petition

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A new cybercrime law came into force in Kenya on Wednesday, but without a ban on “false” information, after bloggers and journalists won a court order blocking rules they said could curtail free expression.

The Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta two weeks ago, is aimed at addressing online abuse that was not covered by laws that predated the proliferation of social media.

But the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) and the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) successfully petitioned a court to block parts of it.

On Tuesday, high court judge Chacha Mwita listed 26 sections of the law as regulations that would affect fundamental rights and freedoms and granted “conservatory orders” preventing anyone being charged under those clauses, pending a definitive ruling on July 18.

BAKE director James Wamathai said: “These sections purport to regulate false news but unfortunately that is against the constitution ... there are existing laws to remedy cases when someone is lying, we don’t need this.”

Other parts of the law penalize cyber-espionage and child pornography.

Other East African countries have passed laws that activists complain curtail free expression.

Tanzania’s government won a court case on Tuesday against opponents of new regulations that require bloggers and activists to pay a license fee of up to $900 and disclose their financial backers.

In April, Uganda announced plans to tax social media users.

Editing by Aaron Maasho and Robin Pomeroy

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