President Kenyatta urged not to assent to bill that could criminalise free speech

The bill could see users jailed for 10 years or attract a Ksh5 million fine

The Computer and Cybercrimes Bill 2017passed by Members of Parliament last month, seeks to impose hefty fines and long jail terms on media houses, bloggers and other internet users who spread fake news.

Also targeted are WhatsApp group administrators who condone sharing of fake news or information meant to incite ethnic hatred.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Africa now says some of the provisions in the bill may stifle press freedom.

“Kenyan legislatures have passed a wide ranging bill that will criminalises free speech with journalist and bloggers likely to be the first victims if signed into law,” said CPJ Africa Coordinator Angel Quinta in New York.

Panic

According to clause 12 of the bill, publishing of a false or fictitious information will attract a Sh5 million fine or a two-year jail term. The jail term could be extended to 10 years if the false information is calculated to cause panic,chaos or violence.

Critics however see the bill as an attempt by the government to regulate information flow and muzzle social media users in a country where about 22.3 million people.

State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu said the presidency would consider reservations raised by those opposed to the Bill publicly or through a letter to the Head of State.

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