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Sedition law outdated, say lawyers
Publish Date: Jan 27, 2010
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By Charles Ariko and Hillary Nsambu
THE law on sedition should be scrapped because it was meant to gag people.

“This is a colonial law intended to protect a feudal set up. Its purpose was justified in a colonial state,” Kenneth Kakuru, a lawyer said recently.

Kakuru was representing the East African Media Institute during the hearing of two constitutional petitions challenging the law on sedition and promoting sectarianism.

The other petition was filed by Andrew Mwenda, a journalist.

The deputy Chief Justice, Laetitia Kikonyongo and justices George Engwau, Constance Byamugisha, Steven Kavuma and Augustine Nshimye heard the petitions.

Kakuru and James Nangwala, who represented Mwenda, argued that the law was not required in a modern democratic society.

They said it violated regional and international conventions on human rights, especially the right to free expression.

“If the citizens become dissatisfied with their leaders, it is okay for them to criticise them because they are the ones who elected them,” Kakuru said.

Sedition occurs when a person utters or publishes statements aimed at bringing hatred, contempt or disaffection against the President, the Government or the Judiciary. The penalty is imprisonment for up to seven years.

Patricia Mutesi, who represented the State, said the law was necessary to prevent public disorder.
She said the right to free expression cannot override national security.

“Utterances intended to create lawlessness among the public should be criminalised,” Mutesi argued.

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