Ms Dorothy Mukasa

A new report released by a local based civil society organization has accused the government of Uganda for continued stifling of internet freedoms.

The report released on Friday by Unwanted Witness, a civil society organization that advocates for safe and accessible online platforms for the realization of human rights says the year 2018 had government implement measures to crack down on internet users in Uganda.

“One of the most alarming digital rights violation was the passing of the Excise Duty Amendment Act 2018 which introduced charges on the use of social media in Uganda. The social media tax has with no doubt negatively impacted on low income Ugandans and their ability to access internet as a human right,” the report says.

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Every internet user in Uganda is required to pay a daily social media tax of 200 in order to access social media sites including Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram among others like Snapchact, Tagged, Badoo.

The report says the new tax was one of the ways the Ugandan government stifled freedoms of citizens to enjoy internet.

“One step forward and two steps back is the best way to describe efforts by Ugandans to gain the constitutionality laid out freedoms of speech and expression,” says the report.

The report points out the Computer Misuse Act, 2011 which it says has been evoked to arrest and detain a number of Ugandans who use the internet.

“The now notorious cyber law has been widely and repeatedly evoked to arrest, detain and interrogate journalists, activists, bloggers, human rights defenders and opposition politicians in the bid to gang dissent, stifle freedom of speech, and generally violate digital rights.”

The report adds: “Just like sedition, the Computer Misuse Act, 2011 is used to perpetually keep victims in and out of either police or court rooms since none of the cases has ever been conclusively determined. Section 25 of the Act has been a potent weapon.”

Speaking at the launch of the report, Unwanted Witness Chief Executive Officer, Dorothy Mukasa alleged that members of the first family have used the Computer Misuse Act of 2011 to stifle internet freedoms for many citizens.

“Members of the first family have prominently featured as the highly offended group by internet users but none of them has ever come to court to testify about the same,” Mukasa says.

The report has also indicated that journalists at 80 per cent were the most affected members of the community by the various internet laws in 2018 adding that a number of them have been arrested and detained using the Computer Misuse Act 2011.

Online editors including Richard Wanambwa (Eagle Online), Giles Muhame (Chimpreports), Darius Mugisha(Matooke Republic), Tadeo Ssenyonyi (Business Focus), John Njoroge (formerly CEO Magazine), Bob Atwine(Spy Reports) and Andrew Irumba of the Spy have been mentioned as journalists who have been victims to cyber laws in 2018

“Majority of these continue to battle with the charges at the Criminal Investigations Department headquarters in Kibuli.”

The report however, said internet penetration and usage in Uganda has continued to grow in the year 2018 adding that 13 million people out of the over 40 people in Uganda now use the internet.

It is also said that many people have continued to use internet to express themselves and also fight for their rights from being violated by others.

“The report calls upon a number of stakeholders to ensure section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act, 2011 is nullified in order to protect freedom of expression as a cornerstone for democracy.

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