By our reporter
Uganda government shall in less than a month shut down any online outlet which has not registered with the regulator.
Online media platforms have been less than15 working days to seek licenses from the Uganda government if they are to continue posting their content, or face shut down, saying a notice from the communications regulator, Uganda Communications Commission.
“All online data communications service providers, including online publishers, online news platforms, online radio, and television operators are therefore advised to apply and obtain authorization from the Commission with immediate effect,” says a public notice in newspapers on Wednesday March 7, 2018.
“The commission shall, from the 2nd of April 2018, embark on enforcement activities against all non compliant providers of online data communication services, and this may entail directing internet service providers (ISP) to block access to such websites and/or streams,” says the directive.
UCC’s notice in newspapers directs that anyone who publishes online content should first get express permission from the commission. It threatens to order internet service providers to block any website which shall not comply.
Many observers say the government is seeking to trample on freedom of express and internet freedom since the government has no business in internet publishing.
Experts argue that whereas government should license radio and TV stations since there is need to regulate frequencies, but imposing a licensing on online publishing was absurd, and it doesn’t make sense.
A similar move in Singapore was summarized condemned by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders saying, “This measure violates the principle of media freedom enshrined in article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which functions as an international standard for 160 countries even if Singapore has not signed it. The criteria used to define which sites need licenses are also highly questionable and are indicative of a desire to exercise prior control over news and information.
“The authorities are almost certainly trying to increase their ability to censor websites that cover local events and have a significant impact on public opinion.”
Licensing news websites would straight away limit the number of websites in the country since most media websites barely cover their operating costs.
For the time being, the licencing requirement was limited to radio, television and newspapers.
“With the influence of social media and online publications, the government must be panicking and seeking means to regulate the internet which is against international practice,” says social media publisher Kamada Lugemwa.