Statement: Monitoring of Social Networks by Uganda Police threatens rights

Kampala, 15th/07/2019; the Unwanted Witness Uganda is concerned about Uganda Police Force’s intensified unlawful surveillance of social networks resulting into increased clamp down on dissenting views online. In a period of two months, police has kidnapped and subsequently arrested seven (7) Internet users majorly Journalists for allegedly annoying president Yoweri Museveni and other public officers via social media.

In 2014 Unwanted Witness flagged a collaboration between Uganda police and Microsoft Corporation to develop a monitoring system. In a letter dated July 12, 2019 police publicist Fred Enanga confirmed that Uganda Police continues monitoring social networks with the aim of criminalizing content, advising Uganda social media users to censor content before posting.

“Police’s arbitrary intrusion on privacy for social media users is chilling given that their surveillance capabilities are applied to target regime critics, journalists and human rights activists online,” Dorothy Mukasa, the Chief Executive Officer, the Unwanted Witness said.

She regretted that Uganda police’s covert use of surveillance tools is for political reasons instead of security purposes leading to grave human rights violations, as people who expect that their messages are being monitored are more likely to self-censor.

The right to privacy is guaranteed under Article 27 of the 1995 Uganda constitution and Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uganda is a state party.

Guaranteeing the right to privacy of all Ugandans, enables the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression, opinion, peaceful assembly and association, as a foundation of a democratic society.

Unwanted Witness thus call upon the police to desist from social media surveillance until safeguards are developed to avoid suppressing free expression and compromising the country’s democratic values.