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Age limit saga: UCC moves to prosecute electronic and social media abusers

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As bitter exchanges between Ugandans supporting the removal of presidential age limit from the constitution and those opposed to it continue across the country, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has in a statement issued a stern warning that those using hate speech and promoting sectarianism among other offences will be dealt with by law.

In a statement authored yesterday UCC says that despite the benefits electronic and social media has brought, some people have used it to violate the UCC Act that governs the communication platforms in the country, which according to the statement is not called for.

UCC’s statement follows calls from opposition politicians in the country urging their supporters to use any means-physical or otherwise to “defend the constitution” by not allowing the removal of presidential age limit of 75 years above which no one can contest to be president of Uganda. The opposing sides have taken the battle to the social media, each calling the other all sorts of names, abuses notwithstanding.

“Whilst the Commission is happy about the innumerable benefits that the Consumers and users of communications services are deriving from the emergence of social and electronic communications platforms, including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and You Tube amongst others, the Commission is increasingly receiving complaints against offensive and illegal content that is sent, shared and otherwise broadcast through electronic communication platforms,” UCC warns.

In the statement, UCC warns of the increasing use of social and electronic media to perpetrate what it calls ‘illegalities’ like sectarianism, hate speech, inciting public violence, prejudice and pornographic content among others. “This is not only exposing the unsuspecting public to financial, social and emotional distress but also posing serious national security concerns,” it warns.

“This is therefore to advise the general public against irresponsible and illegal use of all communication platforms and to be extra careful while using social media and all other forms of electronic communication,” the statement reads in part.

UCC has as a matter of fact advised social and electronic communication platform users, account managers and administrators and group members to restrain themselves against authoring, posting, receiving and sharing or forwarding any forms of electronic communications containing and referring to illegal and offensive content.

Failure to adhere to the advice, the statement says, offenders risk being investigated and prosecuted for aiding and abetting the offences.

“The general public is advised to report all cases of abuse of social and electronic communication platforms to any police station nearest to them or to the Uganda Communications Commission” the statement reads in part.

Towards the end of the 2016 presidential campaigns in Uganda as voters headed to the polling stations to cast votes, UCC switched off all social media for almost the same reasons.

UCC Act 2013, mandates UCC to among other things, monitor, inspect, license, set standards and enforce compliance relating to content. UCC is also mandated to promote and safeguard the interests of consumers of all communication related services in Uganda.

Section 2 of the Act defines “Communications services” to mean services consisting of the dissemination or interchange of audio, visual or data content using postal radio or telecommunications media, data communication and includes broadcasting.

Content”on the other hand is defined under the Act as “any sound, text, still picture, moving picture or other audio visual representation, tactile representation or any combination of the proceeding which is capable of being created, manipulated, stored, retrieved or communicated electronically”.

The Act further defines “data communication” to mean “all electronic representations of information in any form”, which means that every message that is sent through any regulated communication platform , including radio, Television, Telecommunication network or social and electronic communication applications, is regulated and must conform to the law and the standards set by the Commission.

 

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