FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Digital Act may silence legitimate comment

In Summary

• Edwin Mutemi was arrested for posting online a photo of President Kenyatta saying he was 'not authorised' to borrow from the IMF

• The Computer Misuse and CyberCrimes Act 2018 allows the police great latitude to arrest bloggers for 'false publication'

An activist, Edwin Mutemi Kiama, has been arrested for posting online a picture of President Uhuru Kenyatta with his ID number stating that he is 'not authorised to transact' loans with the IMF.

Clearly the police do not have a sense of humour and cannot recognise a joke when they see one.

The police want to detain Mutemi for another 14 days to 'complete their investigations' so clearly they do not know what offence he committed.

A policeman in court said Mutemi is suspected of 'false publication' under the CyberCrimes Act.

The backdrop was a storm of popular protest over the recent Sh257 billion IMF loan. This protest was misguided. Borrowing is normal for governments and the IMF loan carries a far lower interest rate than commercial loans.

But the public still have the right to criticise and caricature the IMF borrowing, even if they are mistaken. Freedom of expression is guaranteed under the 2010 constitution.

The actions of the police over Mutemi's satirical post online therefore set a very dangerous precedent. The Computer Misuse and CyberCrimes Act was passed in 2018 but may be used to muzzle critical comment that would not otherwise meet the threshold for criminal prosecution.

Quote of the day: "I am not allowed to travel because I have struggled for years for the independence of the colonial peoples of Africa."

Paul Robeson
The American singer was born on April 9, 1898