As Uganda joins the rest of the world to celebrate the annual Internet Freedom Day, a new report titled “The State of Digital Rights in Uganda” by Ugandan NGO Unwanted Witness reveals that internet users in the country continue to grapple with endless restrictions.
The report noted a continued growth of internet users, with now over 13 million people connected to internet.
According to the report, social media has been an influential tool used by citizens to express their grievances as well as engaging in campaigns, using various hash tags which have produced positive results.
However, despite this success, the report revealed that government has put in place a number of repressive means to restrict people from enjoying easy access to the internet
Among the measures pointed out, is the introduction of OTT tax which has to be paid by all Ugandans before access social media platforms.
The report also cited the Computer Misuse Act 2011 which is often used to prefer cases against activists and journalists
“The now notorious cyber law has been widely and repeatedly evoked to arrest , detain, interrogate journalists, activists, bloggers, human rights defenders and opposition politicians in a bid to gag and stifle their freedom of speech,” the report says.
Last year, 7 journalists were summoned by the Department of Electronic counter measures at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) for interrogation over allegedly cyber harassment and libel contrary to section 25 of Computer Misuse Act, yet up to now they have never been prosecuted and the files remain open.
Others who have been charged under this law are Stella Nyanzi who is currently in Luzira Prison, and Hon Betty Nambooze who is facing charges at Nakawa Magistrates court.
Speaking at the launch of the report in Kampala, Mrs Dorothy Mukasa, the team leader at Unwanted Witness said basing on the findings of this report; the Computer Misuse Act 2011 is a big threat to the enjoyment of online freedoms and rights.
Mukasa asked Police not to arrest people accused of committing crimes under the Act before investigations are concluded.
“Most of the people arrested over these offences spend a lot of time in court and reporting to CID headquarters over these cases whose investigations take long to be concluded, which is unfair,”
She also asked government to put in place an independent body charged with collection and storage of data collected during the National Identity card registration exercise as well as the data captured by recently installed security cameras on various city streets