KAMPALA – Unwanted Witness, a digital rights body has joined other civil society organizations to warn government and security forces on the increasing incidence of violence and intimidation to online users and digital content providers.
The organization also calls for the fast-tracking of the hearing of petitions before the Constitutional Court challenging Uganda’s cyber laws such as the Computer Misuse Act (2011) and several others saying that some of the acts are used by security agencies to stifle freedoms of online users.
In a petition filed to the Constitutional Court, the NGO also challenges the constitutionality of different sections Computer Misuse Act (2011) including Section 25 which provides that “Any person who willfully and repeatedly uses electronic communication to disturb or attempts to disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication whether or not a conversation ensues commits a misdemeanour and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-four currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.”
But Ms Dorothy Mukasa, the acting Chief Executive Officer, Unwanted Witness Uganda in a statement says the state is undermining internet freedom in the country through application of such repressive cyber laws that criminalise any dissenting opinion.
According to Mukasa, security agencies are suppressing online voices under the guise of curbing hate messages. A number of online content editors have reported receiving threats over critical stories.
Mukasa stated that her organization in 2017 alone documented about Ugandans who were arrested, kidnapped and interrogated or tortured by security forces for their online expression.
Mr Stanley Ndawula, the editor of an online news site, The Investigator, was also recently arrested by operatives attached the Internal Security Organization (ISO) over a critical story on the state.
Others journalists, academia, artists, activists and serving army officers among others and members of the public including Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze have also been arrested and charged with offensive communication
“Such threats by security agencies are undemocratic, unconstitutional and violate internet freedoms as they are meant to instil fear among Internet users who have in the past weeks used the platform for a common cause,” said Mukasa.
She said that security agencies including police are known in the past for creating different cyber units used for cracking down on freedom of speech online.
Also, Uganda Commissions Commission (UCC) recently ordered that all online data communication service providers, including online publishers, online news platforms, and online radio and telephone operators must to apply and obtain authorization from the Commission
Ibrahim Bbosa, a consumer affairs manager at UCC said that such providers are to be granted authorisation and the fees applicable is Shs100,000 per year