Activists Want Court to Prevail over UCC as Deadline to Register Online Broadcasters Nears

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L-R Unwanted Witness Uganda Executive Director, Dorothy Mukasa and Head Legal, Allan Ssempala Kigozi

Unwanted Witness Uganda a Civil Society Organisation that was established to respond to the gap in effective communication using various online expression platforms has appealed to the judiciary to prevail over the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC)’s directive seeking to authorize online publishers.

On September 7, 2020, UCC issued a notice reminding all online data communication and broadcast service providers to apply for authorization or risk being blocked by internet service providers by October 5, 2020.

Addressing the media in Kampala, Unwanted Witness Uganda Executive Directive, Dorothy Mukasa said that the directive by UCC is a direct attack on freedom of expression as a fundamental right with clear intent to stifle legitimate criticism.

Mukasa said that on September 11, 2020 Unwanted Witness Uganda filled a petition to the Constitutional court requesting for a temporary and interim injunction following the 2019 petition to the same court requesting for a permanent injunction restraining UCC to proceed with the directive.

“The blanket decision and directive by UCC to publishers and others to apply and obtain authorization from them, interferes with freedom of expression and digital rights and is in contravention and inconsistent with Article 29(1) and 41 of the 1995 constitution to the Republic of Uganda,” Mukasa said.

Unwanted Witness Uganda Head Legal, Allan Ssempala Kigozi said that with digital communications taking centre stage in the run-up to the 2021 general elections, this directive will disproportionately curtail the free flow of information and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas via different platforms.

Ssempala said that this poses a threat to the public’s ability to freely participate in the forthcoming general elections.

“Digital communications play a critical role in shaping the electoral process by bridging the gap between the political candidate and the public. The requirement for application, registration and authorization threatens free speech and the rights to association and assembly; such limitations will not only promote self-censorship but also undermine individual participation in the 2020 electoral processes,” Ssempala said.

Ssempala has thus urged the judiciary to expeditiously intervene and prevail over UCC’s; we particularly call upon the Deputy Chief Justice, Richard Butera to institute the bench to handle the application for interim injunction.