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MPs oppose move to police personal social media accounts

Parliament of Uganda

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  A section of Members of Parliament has slammed Uganda Communications Commission for moving to regulate electronic broadcasts on personal social media space.

In a Public Notice issued on Monday, UCC- the telecommunications regulator reminded all online content providers that they have up to October 5, to register and advised all persons currently offering or planning to commence the provision of online data communication and broadcasting services to obtain authorization before providing such services to the public.

The UCC has since clarified that even individuals who routinely execute electronic broadcasts that can be categorized as news or have paid for the content on personal social media platforms will have to seek authorization. According to the UCC, any social media page used to transmit sound, video or data intended for simultaneous reception by the public will need authorization as a data communicator.

The spokesperson of UCC Ibrahim Bbossa told URN in an interview on Tuesday that individuals who run media like outfits on their platforms need to be aware of the responsibility required of them.

Gulu Municipality MP Leandro Komakech describes this as regulatory overreach, adding that the UCC is overstepping its mandate. Komakech adds that he is in the process of drafting a digital rights law that will protect users of online platforms from violations of their freedoms.

Aruu North MP Odonga Otto has called the move undemocratic and dictatorial, saying that it must be challenged because broadcasting news with a mobile phone should not be of concern to the government.

Similarly, Ayivu County MP Bernard Atiku says that even though regulation is necessary to stop impunity of social media, parliament should examine the regulations and that UCC needs to be summoned to explain the measures it is imposing on Ugandans. Atiku adds that the timing of the regulation is suspect since the measures are being enforced during the electoral period.

However, the Chairperson of the ICT committee Paul Amoru says that unregulated social media risks harming a lot of people, a trend which would invite the control of the state. He advises that regulation should not be confused with control, adding that regulation guided by the law that does not infringe on freedom of expression. 

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