Activists have asked the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) to formulate guidelines to regulate Internet to protect citizens from unnecessary shutdowns in the country.
During the February general election, Ugandans experienced an abrupt Internet and mobile money services shutdown, a situation civil society organisations described as a violation of citizens’ right to freedom of speech, opinion and expression as enshrined in the Constitution.
The first shutdown occurred on February 17, the eve of presidential and parliamentary elections while the second incident happened on May 11, a day before the President’s inaugural ceremony for another term in office. In a September 7 letter to UCC, local charity, the Unwanted Witness Uganda, said there is need to formulate standards for institutions who would wish to interfere with Internet usage in the country.
“These standards which are meant to deter impunity, online violations and abuses by either the State, institutions or individuals, should be in conformity with the Constitution and other international obligations to which Uganda is signatory,” reads the letter.
The letter signed by the organisation’s chief executive officer, Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, indicates that for Internet to ably facilitate growth and development and deter future blockage, standards should be set to make Ugandans aware of when they should expect blockage and plan accordingly.
The UCC executive director, Mr Godfrey Mutabaazi, on Thursday said he had not received the letter but insisted that there are guidelines regulating Internet.
“There are guidelines already but we shall respond to the letter,” he said without divulging into the matter.
Addressing journalists on Thursday, Mr Ssebaggala said the guidelines are meant to deter reoccurrence of acts of impunity that would be perpetrated by either the State agencies, institutions or individuals in future.
He also said Internet shutdown guidelines are needed as a tool for safeguarding citizens’ right to freedom of expression but also as a mechanism for upholding good governance, transparency and accountability.