Kenyan Blogger Arrested Over COVID-19 Post

Robert Alai when he appeared before the judge on 23rd March, 2020. Photo Credit: Joseph Wangui, Nation Media Group

A blogger in Kenya, Robert Alai has been charged with publishing false information after he made a post on social media about the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 19thMarch 2020, Alai posted on Twitter that the Kenyan government was concealing information about the spread of coronavirus in the country. He also said the government was underplaying the impact of covid-19 in the country.

Following his post, he was arrested on 20th March, and taken to the Muthaiga Police Station where he was detained for three days.

He was accused of contravening the Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Act 2018, which prohibits the publication of unverified information.  The law spells penalties in forms of fines or jail terms for such offenders.

Section 22 (1) of the law states: “A person who intentionally publishes false, misleading or fictitious data or misinforms with the 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 five million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to both.”

On 23rdMarch 2020, Alai appeared before a Senior Resident Magistrate M. Ndungi and denied the charges.

He was released on a KES 50,000 (about USD 465) cash bail or alternative bond of KES 150,000 (about USD 1,396). He was also barred from posting any such information on his Twitter or Facebook page.

AFEX regrets this incident and urges journalists, bloggers and media outlets to avoid peddling unverified information at this crucial time when citizens are depending on the journalists for accurate information and education on COVID-19.