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Uganda: Parliament Passes Computer Misuse Bill

(Aug. 12, 2010) On August 4, 2010, the 332-member unicameral Ugandan Parliament passed the Computer Misuse Bill (No. 23 of 2008), which, among other things, seeks to ensure the security of and prevent unlawful access to computers and information systems (Parliament Reaffirms Ban on Child Pornography, The Parliament of the Republic of Uganda website,
(last visited Aug. 10, 2010). The bill will be sent to the President for his assent before it can be enacted.

The bill criminalizes “computer misuse,” which includes unlawfully accessing computers and network systems, corrupting data, disrupting networks or systems, introducing viruses, creating and forwarding defamatory material, and copyright infringement. For instance, intentionally accessing or intercepting any data without proper authorization is an offense punishable on conviction by a fine of up to UGX240,000 (about US$109) and/or a maximum of six months' imprisonment. (Computer Misuse Bill, No. 23 of 2008, §10, the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda website, (last visited Aug. 11, 2010).)

The bill also makes it an offense for a person to produce, buy, sell, or possess any computer program designed to “overcome security measures for the protection of data” without proper authorization; the penalty for this offense is the same as that for unlawfully accessing or intercepting data. (Id.) In addition, the bill criminalizes electronic fraud, which it defines broadly as any situation involving deception with the intent to secure unfair gain in which part of a communication in the process is transmitted electronically. The penalty for this offense is a fine of up to UGX3,360,000 (about US$1,524) and/or a maximum term of seven years' imprisonment. (Id., § 17.)

Another notable provision of the bill is the criminalization of production and distribution of child pornography. It criminalizes the following acts:

· production of child pornography for the purpose of distribution with the use of a computer;

· offering or distributing child pornography via a computer;

· acquiring child pornography with the use of a computer; or

· storing child pornography on a computer. (Id., §20.)

The commission of any of these offenses is punishable on conviction by a fine of up to UGX2,400,000 (about US$1,088) and /or imprisonment for a term not to exceed five years. (Id.) The definition of the term “child pornography” adopted by the bill includes not only materials that visually depict an actual child engaged in “sexually suggestive and explicit conduct,” but also materials depicting an adult impersonating a child or a “realistic image of a child.” (Id.)