President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya Wednesday signed new laws, including one banning the spread of hate speech on social media.
Kenya lawmakers, who passed the law in parliament raised concerns that crimes, including online scams were being perpetrated on social media, which the existing laws do not cover.
According to the new law, offenders guilty of propagating hate speech or sharing “fictitious” information online would spend two year in jail, or pay five million shillings (49,776.01 dollars) fine, or both.
A statement from the Kenyan government said the law would lay a foundation for investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes, including cyber-harassment and “publication of false information”.
Violations punishable under the law would also include cyber-espionage, child pornography, computer-borne forgery, cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying among others, the statement further said without mentioning the penalties.
However, New York-based media rights watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, had raised concern that the bill could criminalise free speech by “targeting journalists and bloggers”.
The lawmakers passed the bill last month despite protests from media practitioners and rights activists, who said its provisions could suppress press freedoms.
Kenya joined other countries in the region, which have passed such controversial laws. Earlier in the month, Tanzanian bloggers and rights activists won a temporary court injunction against a government order to register online platforms that raised concerns about a crackdown on free speech.
In April, Uganda, another East African country announced plans to impose a new tax on social media users.