The Daily Nation was first to report that Judge James Makau dismissed the case, on Thursday, February 20, stating that the petition was unwarranted.
He further added that the bloggers had cited sections in the law which had already been suspended by the court.
File image of Journalists covering a press conference
The bloggers had sued the state after President Uhuru Kenyatta assented the bill into law on May 16, 2018, amid calls that it violated the right to media freedoms and expression.
The law stipulates heavy penalties for cyberbullies and fake newsdealers. It also targets journalists, media houses, social media users, bloggers and other internet users.
“A person who intentionally publishes false, misleading or fictitious data or misinforms with intent that the data shall be considered or acted upon as authentic, with or without any financial gain, commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding Ksh5 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to both.
“A person who knowingly publishes information that is false in print, broadcast, data or over a computer system, that is calculated or results in panic, chaos, or violence among citizens of the republic, or which is likely to discredit the reputation of a person, commits an offence and shall on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding Ksh5 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or to both,” sections 22 and 23 read respectively.
In summary, offences stipulated in the contentious law include intentionally publishing false or fictitious misleading data, fraudulent use of electronic data, publishing information in print, a broadcast which causes panic, unauthorised interference to a computer system, programme or data, intercepting of electronic messages or money transfer and issues relating to child pornography.
Speaking to kenyagist.com, Shitemi Khamadi, a former BAKE representative, argued that the ruling was unfair and injurious to Kenyans.
“It is terrible as one can be found guilty easily. This basically criminalises freedom of expression. There also are many other infringing sections. For example, the definition of hacking. There is also the case of someone mistakenly sending you money via mobile money transfer. If you withdraw the money, then you could easily land in court. It will also be easier for politicians to take people to court knowing that it would be expensive for one to fight for justice in relation to several sections in the law. The only way forward is to file an appeal,” Shitemi stated.
“This ruling threatens the freedoms that Kenyans have fought for and which are enshrined in our constitution. We are concerned that the state and other actors may use this law to target and intimidate bloggers and other online users and so it is our intention to immediately appeal this decision. As it stands now-Justice Makau has declared that the Cybercrimes Law is valid including the parts that sneaked back Criminal Defamation provisions that were declared unconstitutional by Justice John Mativo,” BAKE chairperson Kennedy Kachwanya further responded via a press release.
“We respect the decision of the court. Be that as it may, we strongly believe that the court misdirected itself regarding certain fundamental issues touching on freedom of expression and civic space. We hope that the Court of Appeal will appreciate the primacy of digital rights in an indefinably increasing digital age.” added Demas Kiprono, the lawyer for Article 19 and Campaign Manager, Safety & Dignity at Amnesty International Kenya added via a statement sent to kenyagist.com.
Cases of fake news have been in the spot in Kenya, with most of them centred around celebrities and terror.
On Sunday, February 16, DCI detectives in Bomet County arrested one, Timothy Koech alias Joseph Langat at Chepngaina village for publishing alarming information on Facebook, warning that members of a terror group were to attack an institution of higher learning.
On October 2, 2019, false reports circulated on social media alleging that popular Citizen TV actress, Wanjiku Mburu, alias Mama Baha had succumbed to cancer.
A notice flagged as fake by the Ministry of Interior on January 22, 2020