Unwanted Witness Petitions Court Over Online Licenses

Unwanted Witness Uganda has filed a petition in the Constitutional Court therein challenging the Uganda Communication commission‘s (UCC) directive requiring all online publishers to apply and obtain authorizations or licenses.

Unwanted Witness’s petition stems from two actions of UCC: a March 5, 2018, statement directing all online publishers to register, obtain operational and authorization licenses from the regulator. Subsequently on April, 19, 2018, UCC ordered all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to immediately suspend the provision of carriage services to any Online Data Communication service provider without license.

In a public notice, date March 6, 2018, UCC in unambiguous terms said online service providers had been given a deadline of April 2, 2018 to register or in default, disciplinary measures be taken against them.

Now, Unwanted Witness through Kiiza & Mugisha Advocates insists that Section 2 of Uganda Communications Commission Act, 2013, defines “communications services” in a sweeping, vague and overly broad manner is in contravention and inconsistent with Articles 29(1), 27(2) and 41 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

“The blanket decision and directive of the commission that indiscriminately, and disproportionately requires all online publishers, news platforms and all those offering online data communications services to apply and obtain authorization and/or licenses is unconstitutional,” the petition goes on.

Last year, Unwanted Witness filed a suit before the High Court raising similar issues but it later withdrew it. Its legal team acted on the advice of a High Court judge. He had opined that since the case raises issues of constitutional interpretation the case is better filed in the Constitutional Court and that’s the route Unwanted Witness has taken.