Ivan Bwowe, a human rights lawyer, has petitioned High Court challenging the recent notice issued by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) requiring all persons providing online data communication to regularize their operations before use.
On 7th September 2020, UCC wrote that online content providers had to regulate their operations by obtaining permission from the commission before 5th October 2020 to be permitted to provide services to the public. The content providers included blogs, online radios, online Televisions, and online newspapers among others
The commission also noted that, following the UCC Act and regulations, it is mandated to license, regulate and set standards for the provision of all communication services including radio communication and online broadcasting in the country.
However, in his petition filed on Thursday 10th September before the Civil Division of High Court, Bwowe, who is a member of Network for public interest lawyers wants Court to quash the said notice on grounds that it is illegal and an abuse of the law. In his case filed in the public’s interest, Bwowe contends that acts of issuing the notice contradict the objectives of the UCC Act as clearly stipulated in section three which reduces the direct role of government as an operator in the communication sector.
“The public notice has grave consequences as it seems to limit and penalize the use of our social media accounts but also limiting the exercise of our Constitutional rights of freedom of expression, privacy, and civic rights and activities,” reads the petition in part.
He further argues that he is aware that UCC doesn’t have the mandate to regulate social media companies many of which hold accounts and can’t limit the content posted there provided the content satisfies the community rules and standards of the respective social media platforms.
Bwowe, who drafted and filed his case, now wants Court to quash the said notice and restrain UCC plus State institutions from arresting, fining, or prosecuting any person basing on the contested notice.
UCC is yet to be summoned to file its defense before the matter can be allocated to a Judge to fix it for hearing.