Police’s hunt of suspects is likely to be hampered by difficulties of investigating digital crimes: for instance unmasking many faces behind pseudo social media accounts. as people using Virtual Private Networks are hard to nab, as is extraditing fake news purveyors such as vlogger Fred Lumbuye.
But Twiine said police have built capacity in cyber investigation that will be put to use when locating fake news purveyors. The investigation will be carried out with support of Uganda Communications Commission -UCC.
This isn’t the first arrest. Chris Nabugere, Ugandan Twitter influencer was on July 2nd briefly arrested by what he later termed as ‘kidnapping’ and described as armed men driving in a drone for allegedly tweeting fake news that Museveni had died.
A tweet by his sister Phoebe Rita Nabugere which went viral shortly after the arrest got him released hours later. The family was able to quickly get in touch with Brig Chris Sserunjogi Ddamulira, the head of the Crime Intelligence Directorate who ordered his release.
Arrests began after Museveni last week called for apprehension of those declaring him dead. But Human Rights Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo said arrests should not be the only way of dealing with fake news. “Instead of arresting and trying to prosecute people for making fun of a leader, a leader should take heart and in my view should just have said ‘I am not dead, I am here’ instead of taking radical measures,” he said. Citizens, Opiyo says have the right to lampoon and make fun of their leaders.
It has been common for high profile Ugandans to be declared dead on social media when they are alive. For instance, Kabaka of Buganda Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and former Electoral Commission Chairperson Dr. Badru Kiggundu have all been declared dead in recent months. Hajj Bulaimu Kibirige, was also declared dead yet he is alive. There were no arrests in such incidents.
Twiine said that for police to take action, there must be a complainant. For instance, if Mayor Lukwago asked them to arrest those who declared him dead, Twiine said, police can take action.
Rumours originate out of Uganda
Both Museveni and Twiine have hinted that rumours that were circulating on social media could have originated from out of Uganda thus making the likes of Fred Lumbuye a key target.
“It’s a scheme for some people who are actually outside that are trying to create grounds for getting political asylum,” he said.
Lumbuye has morphed into a troublesome purveyor of fake news of all sorts, making outrageous and bogus claims. As fake news started spreading of Museveni’s death, Lumbuye in a video posted on his YouTube channel on July 2nd claimed that Museveni ordered his family that once he is dead, he should not be publicly declared dead until after one year. Such are the arguments he shared with his viewers in a bid to convice them that the president is indeed dead. He also claimed that former four-times presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye is among people who met First Lady Janet Museveni to plan life without Museveni. URN