UCC warns broadcasters; spells out digital media rules

UCC digital media rules

Uganda Communications Commissions warned broadcasters who have failed to “sieve content” thus enabling their audiences to use their (broadcasters’) platforms to express views that are “inciting, discriminating and stirring up hatred or violence against persons and groups in society” will, if they don’t revise their system, face the law.

Following the murder of the Member of Parliament Ibrahim Abiriga, the Commission says, the vast majority of people have used different channels, including media houses to relay views that “express hatred, discrimination, stereotype against others persons and groups in “our society on the basis of their political opinions, religions, tribes, and offices”.

During the send-off ceremony of Abiriga who was brutally murdered alongside his brother, President Yoweri Museveni also warned that people who spread such information would pay for it.

UCC, under sections 5(1)(x) of the Uganda Communications Act 2013, is mandated to set standards and enforce compliance relating to content. Under section 31 and Schedule of the same act, broadcasters are required to ensure that their content complies with the minimum broadcasting standards and all laws in Uganda.

Fred Otunnu, the Commission’s acting executive director, in a Wednesday statement, said that broadcasters are “strictly reminded to comply with their statutory and license obligations, failure of which will leave UCC with no alternative but to invoke regulatory sanctions under section 41 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 and/or institute criminal proceedings against offending broadcasters at their own peril.”

The statement, however, was repulsed by a section of social media, with some questioning whether the government is not trying to stifle critics, and how the commission will differentiate freedom of speech from hate speech.

Rules and regulations

Before the aforementioned statement was issued Ibrahim Bbossa, UCC consumer affairs manager in a long thread laid out some of the rules that govern online content, covering areas like offensive communication, libel, hate speech, sectarianism, inciting public violence and prejudice, distribution of pornographic materials, cyberstalking among others.

Most of the crimes/ offenses that were highlighted in the thread were extracted from the Penal Code Act and the Computer Misuse Act 2011.

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