Kampala, 21st/Jan/2015, Unwanted witness Uganda is concerned by the secretive signing and hiding the content of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Uganda Police Force (UPF) and Uganda Communication Commission (UCC), formalizing a joint crackdown on citizens’ online freedoms including freedom of expression and the right to privacy. The MoU is intended to bind the two institutions through sharing information about internet users and content published to find charges.
On 8th January 2015, police chief Gen. Kale Kaihura and UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabaazi signed the MOU on behalf of their respective institutions. However details of the document have continued to be kept secret despite several interfaces between the Unwanted Witness and Ministry of Information Communication Technology.
Sources told the Unwanted Witness that the tightly guarded document is in possession of state house, police and UCC and that it is intended to support police’s newly established Cyber Crime Unit to enforce cyber laws including the computer misuse Act ahead and beyond 2016 general elections.
“We’re concerned that such moves are intended to criminalise gadgets regarded as computers, content regarded critical to the regime and published on web-based platforms and individuals including bloggers and Netizen.” The Unwanted Witness Chief Executive Officer Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala
He emphasized that concealing information from the public does not only breed an ignorant citizenry but also violates citizens’ constitutional right. Article 41 says every citizen has a right of access to information in the possession of the state or any other organ of the state.
The Unwanted Witness foresees that failure to publicize content of the MoU, security agencies including police are likely to abuse their powers by curtailing the enjoyments of online freedoms. The MoU endorsement comes at a time when security agencies including police have for the last two years been profiling social media users and monitoring secretly the most used internet based platforms including Face Book and twitter among others through their various Internet Monitoring Units.
We therefore demand that UCC and UPF make the content of the MoU public in order to avoid intimidating internet users and cause self censorship.
The Unwanted Witness calls upon the international community especially the donors’ Democracy and Human Right Working Group to put pressure on government to make the MoU content public for purposes of keeping the internet open, free and secure.