BUGOLOBI – The Pornography Control Committee (PCC) and the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) have Thursday, March 21, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see internet service providers (ISPs) directed to block their customers from accessing websites with pornographic content.
The MoU signed by Executive Director, Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi on behalf of UCC and Dr. Annette Kezaabu Kasimbazi for PCC will allow the two bodies to corporate and collaborate in early detection of pornography on all communications, prosecution of offenders, training media personnel and provision of educative materials on dangers of pornography; all aimed at implementing the Anti-Pornography Act.
Speaking at the signing ceremony held at UCC headquarter in Bugolobi, the PCC chairperson, Dr. Kezaabu said the duo will use available infrastructures in detecting pornography including digital logger, free communication services –shortcodes and toll-free numbers.
“This is a very important partnership to us,” she said adding that UCC being a regulator of all communications platforms has got the capability to direct all [internet service] providers on any matter concerning consumers’ wellbeing including morals.
“We requested UCC for a partnership in protecting consumers of communications services by controlling over all the broadcast and online platforms,” she said.
On his part, Mr. Mutabazi admitted that pornography is a big problem to the country, as it is now online and a lot of people including children have access to it which he said it is very dangerous to the society.
He, however, assured the committee that the commission has got the capacity and all mechanism to control all content on TV, radio, and social media and that soon, porn will be no more.
“Pornography is not as impossible as most Ugandans assume, UCC has the capacity; so many people talk of can you manage? but as a regulator, we don’t go ahead of the industry; we wait and see, then take action. You know at one time, even FM was a big problem, whenever they talked about FM, we could shake and wonder of how do we control, but now that is old technology and it’s a question of pressing a button and the station is off. Also is the online thing, it’s going to be tackled,” he assured the committee.
He added that UCC will not cry out to technology companies for help but rather, it has got the capacity to protect the country from any cyber and related harm including pornography and other cyber-related threats.
“We shall not beg Facebook or those technologies companies to save us, they are not our saviors, they are making money, even if you lose life, they don’t want to know because it’s their business,” he noted.
As a regulator of the communications sector, UCC has the authority and control over ISPs and can direct them to block any content that supposes should not be consumed by the public especially children.
Drive against online pornography has been, however, labeled by critics as a diversion from deeper problems of graft, unemployment and crumbling social services facing government.
The campaign is the latest salvo in a culture war between conservatives fighting what they see as foreign moral influences promoting criminality and a more liberal, often younger population.
“This is an invasion, its Western culture,” said Simon Lokodo, Catholic priest who serves as minister of ethics and integrity.
“Overconsumption of pornography … the consequences are very dire,” he told the media recently.
The government had released UGX 2 billion to his office to combat online pornography. Some money would go to pornography-blocking software, he said.
Some Ugandans expressed anger at the cost of the ban, saying it served only to divert public attention from failures government.
Andrew Karamagi, a rights activist and lawyer in Kampala, said he could not understand government obsession with “what people watch, who sleeps with whom, how and when”, while it struggled to fund social services such as hospitals and schools.
According to new rankings by Alexa, an American web traffic analysis company based in San Francisco, pornographic materials and information in Uganda have never been more consumed than now despite the 2-year old pornographic control committee instituted by the government to prevent the use or spread of pornographic materials and information.
Fr. Lokodo attributed the high rate of pornographic consumption to moral degenerations.
“Our youth’s morals today have badly degenerated. I blame this on their parents and their local leaders. Consumption of porn materials and information has serious social, physical and psychological side effects. It has led to family and marriage breakages in some cases,” Mr. Lokodo said.