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Increase in ‘fake publications’ worries sector regulator UCC

(L-R) ICT Minister Frank Tumwebaze share insight with Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director Mr Godfrey Mutabazi during UCC celebrations held in Munyonyo recently. The commissioned is worried by an increase in incidences of ‘Fake News”. (PHOTO BY JAVIRA SSEBWAMI)

BUGOLOBI – Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the sector regulator has January 8, warned digital publishers on the increase in the incidences of ‘fake publications’.

The commission also says it has identified a one Drake Lukunge Matovu alias Matoo Drake, whom the commission accuses of deliberately posting ‘unverified content to misinform and mislead the public’.

According to UCC, Lukunge who is on the run now is suspected of engaging in cyber-related violations early this year.

UCC explains that Lukunge is suspected to have published fake and misleading information against the person of the Executive Director [Mr Godfrey Mutabazi] on a Facebook Page identified as Media Vision Uganda which has been since shut down.

“We take exception to such criminality and culprits will be prosecuted,” says UCC adding “whoever is in the habit of deliberately creating, publishing and distributing Fake News need to be aware of provisions of the Penal Code Act that criminalise the same.”

Background

Early this year, a number of online bloggers including Media Vision Uganda made damning ‘allegations’ against Mr Mutabazi, that he had issued a directive to all broadcasters against playing Bobi Wine’s Tuliyambala Engule song.

Mr Godrey Mutabazi, the UCC executive director. Information circulated that he had banned broadcaster against playing Bobi Wine’s Tuliyambala Engule Song. (PHOTO BY JAVIRA SSEBWAMI)

The page also alleged that Mr Mutabazi had banned people from having the controversial song on their phones as “it is treasonous and disturbs the peace of president.”

“I even warn those who have it on their phones, we can trace you and you will be forced to answer some questions,” adds the information carried by the page.

UCC however, denied knowledge of the information and the comments attributed to Mr Mutabazi by Media Vision Uganda.

“An online page managed by an individual [now identified as Lukunge] that has since been identified published fake and misleading information against the person of the Executive Director [Mr Mutabazi], UCC said in a statement.

About the law

Section 50 of the penal code, says that any person who publishes any false statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace commits a misdemeanour.

Section 179, of the same, says that any person who, by print, writing, painting, effigy or by any means otherwise than solely by gestures, spoken words or other sounds, unlawfully publishes any defamatory matter concerning another person, with intent to defame that other person, commits the misdemeanour termed libel.

However, Supreme Court Judge J.N. Mulenga in 2004 declared the law on publishing false news unconstitutional saying that it was exerting an unacceptable chilling effect on the freedom of expression.

The law on publishing false news was challenged by Charles Onyango Obbo and Andrew Mujuni Mwenda in 2002.

But despite the nullification of the law, several journalists have been prosecuted by the State using unconstitutional laws under the guise of bringing justice.

UCC in a statement also insists that such ‘false statements’, are likely to cause fear and alarm to the public.

UCC also wants members of the public to be vigilant and exercise due care by verifying stories.

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