A popular blogger wants a law used against him, in a case involving President Uhuru Kenyatta, declared unconstitutional.
Robert Alai moved to court to have Section 132 of the Penal Code declared unconstitutional arguing that it violated freedom of expression.
“The section limits the freedom of speech and expression of the petitioner and the citizenry of Kenya at large by the use of broad and vaguely worded sedition laws that the government can wield to arrest, investigate and imprison its critics and dissenting voices,” said Robert Alai’s lawyer as published by The Star on May 4.
High Court Judge Joseph Onguto certified Robert Alai’s case as urgent and set the hearing date on May 11,. He was instructed to serve the state.
Robert Alai was charged with contravening the law through a post on Twitter on December 13, 2014, that was seen as demeaning to President Uhuru.
“Insulting Raila is what Uhuru can do. He hasn’t realised the value of the presidency. Adolescent president. This seat needs maturity,” read the tweet.
This, according to the prosecution, was calculated to bring into contempt the authority of a public officer (who in this case is Uhuru). He was arrested days after posting the comment, charged in a Kiambu court and then freed on KSh 300,000 bond with an alternative of a KSh 200,000 cash bail.
If found guilty of contravening the Penal Code, Robert Alai would be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.
Robert Alai is not the first blogger to challenge a law. Another blogger, Geoffrey Andare, successfully challenged the constitutionality of a law that was often used by the state against bloggers.
Justice Mumbi Ngugi ruled that Section 29 of the Information and Communication Act was unconstitutional.
“A person who by means of a licensed telecommunication system: sends a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or sends a message that he knows to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another person commits an offence,” read the Act.
If prosecuted and found guilty of an offense under the Act, individuals were liable to a fine of up to KSh 50,000 , or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both.