Freedom House Report on online freedom 2014 pins Uganda Government for Violation of citizens’ rights, says the Unwanted Witness.
Unwanted witness Uganda is concerned about the threats to internet freedom in Uganda that have taken the form of legislative restrictions significantly compromising access to information, freedom of expression, and rights to privacy online as portrayed by the Freedom House report FREEDOM ON THE NET https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/freedom-net-2014#.VJ1E2QIA
The report indicates clear infringements on internet freedom in Uganda as caused by the proliferation of restrictive laws and the rise in arrests and attacks on users and online journalists. The report further identifies harsh environment for women and members of the LGBTI, lack of cyber security for human rights activists, political opposition members and allowing private companies to maintain data storage centers as increasing the risk of violating the rights of online users.
Unwanted Witness Uganda whose work is to advocate for an open, secure and free internet in Uganda has recorded over four cyber legislations enacted in a period of less than three years that allow “lawful” surveillance. These cyber laws are deemed by actors as not compatible to international standards especially the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. (See the principles https://necessaryandproportionate.org/ )
These legislations including the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act; Anti-Pornography; Electronic Transactions Act; Electronic Signatures Act; UCA Act; Anti-Terrorism Act among others have heightened government’s surveillance of citizens’ communications under the guise of curbing terrorism with the absence of privacy and data protection legislations.
“The Unwanted Witness Uganda thus continues to advocate for an all inclusive enactment of a privacy and data protection law aimed at protecting the privacy rights of all online users and also set standards for collection, storage and use of individual data by both state actors and private companies. This will protect individual data gathered during the mandatory SIM Card registration, mass enrollment and any similar activity in future” Said, Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the Unwanted Witness Chief Executive Officer
Once enacted, the privacy and data protection law shall not only regulate the current secretive surveillance being undertaken by government on its citizens but further operationalize Article 27 (2) of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda which prohibits interference with the privacy of any person’s home, correspondence, communication or other property.
The Unwanted Witness therefore notes that with the establishment of internet monitoring centers in major security agencies and a cyber crime unit in Uganda police creates a worrisome environment as the country gears up for the 2016 general elections which agencies will seek to undertake mass surveillance especially online, which actions are aimed at stifling online expression platforms.
(Report Link for Uganda`s assessment https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2014/uganda