News Column

Ugandans Denied Right to Expression, Privacy Over Mobile Phones and Internet - Lobby

May 23, 2014

Kamau Mbote



The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) has hit out at a number of laws that have been passed in recent months saying they detract citizen freedoms as the government seeks to make it hard for the opposition, civil society and the media to operate.

According to a policy briefing released by CIPESA one such law is the Anti-Pornography Act 2014 that prohibits the production and consumption of pornography with the penalties leveled upon both users and internet service providers.

According to the Ugandan law it is illegal to produce, traffic in, publish, broadcast, procure, import, export, sell or abet any pornography with hefty fines and prison terms set for those who contravene the law.

According to CIPESA the law violates the freedom of expression and privacy as well as the principle of net neutrality ISP's are expected to have by not filtering content.

The lobby group in the report adds that international best practice stipulates that ISPs and governments to treat all data on the internet equally, not discriminating or charging differently by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.

Under the law ISPs have the responsibility of removing illegal content hosted on their networks including installation of software to block access to porn by devices such as computers and mobile Phones with companies that do not comply and allow their systems to be used to upload or download pornography risking fines of up to US$4,000 and or can be imprisoned for five years.

CIPESA says the liability however needs to only be placed on internet content developers, publishers or broadcasters who allow pornography, specifically child pornography, to be published to the public, as well as to users who consume pornography in the public domain.

The civil society group also has a problem with Regulation of interception of communications Act enacted in 2010 that allows the government to spy on communications without a court order.

CIPESA says this law that gives effect to the Anti-terrorism law allows the government to spy on media stations and their journalists.

The lobby now says the freedom of the internet is now deteriorating with Uganda among the five African countries which in 2013 asked Facebook to disclose particulars of an individual for unknown reasons.

"These laws further restrict the space, both online and offline, in which civil society, the media and citizens can enjoy constitutionally granted rights to freedom of expression, opinion, assembly, and information," CIPESA says in a statement.


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Source: AllAfrica