By our reporter

Unwanted Witness Uganda, a civil society organization has condemned Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) for spearheading a move to curtail online freedoms through surveillance and communication censorship of online news publishers.

Early this week, UCC wrote to all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country directing them to immediately suspend provision of carriage to any online data communication service provider (news provider) that has not been authorized by UCC. In March 2018, UCC issued a public notice directing all online publishers to register and obtain authorization from the regulator before April 2nd 2018.

According to Ms. Dorothy Mukasa, Unwanted Witness’s Chief Executive Officer, the current actions by UCC suggest overlooking its overall obligation to safeguard citizens’ online freedoms and instead resorting to surveillance aimed at clamping down on free online media after the same body highly censored traditional/mainstream media in the country.

“UCC is ultimately seeking to gain control over owners of online platforms, intimidate them and censor content being published online. This presents a dark future for freedom of expression and right to privacy online since Internet is the only existing independent dashboard of ideas in Uganda today” she said.

Ms. Mukasa further reminded UCC of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights that provides;
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

She said the article is also in line with the1995 constitution of the Republic of Uganda under Article 29 that provides for the protection of freedom of expression. Expression as noted connotes the right to freely speak out regardless of frontier.

Noting that the internet is a source of information, independent news and provides platforms where individuals can express their thoughts, opinion and views, Ms Mukasa said that such platform should be kept unrestricted for the enjoyment of such rights ordinarily enjoyed offline, especially freedom of expression that has no frontiers.

On the other hand, Ms. Dorothy urged UCC to stick to its mandate of providing a facilitating environment for access to the Internet and not working to the contrary.