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Uganda: New Registration Requirements Threaten Online Expression
In response to an August 8 announcement by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) that it will enforce a requirement that “data communicators,” such as social media influencers, register and pay a $20 annual fee for online activity, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The UCC’s registration requirements, forcing many who publish online content to pay a yearly fee and register for monitoring purposes, are a clear infringement of Ugandans’ constitutionally protected rights to freedom of speech and expression,” said Jon Temin, director of Africa programs at Freedom House. “Requiring people to pay a fee to post on online platforms, as well as monitoring by the government, discourages online activity, stifles free expression, and creates new opportunities for government interference in citizens’ speech. Freedom House urges the UCC to abandon the restrictions imposed by the regulations, and to work to protect, rather than curtail, individual freedoms.”
On August 8, the UCC announced that “data communicators” are required to register with the agency, as well as pay a $20 yearly fee, as outlined by a 2018 directive. UCC spokesperson Ibrahim Bbosa explained that “data communicators” disseminate content that “could easily violate the known parameters of morality, of incitement, of ethnic prejudice or not be factual.” He also said that the UCC wants “online platforms to register with the commission so that we can monitor [them].”
In 2018, the Ugandan government introduced a social media tax, which charges citizens $0.05 per day to use a variety of online platforms. President Museveni encouraged the imposition of the tax, arguing that it would alleviate the consequences of online “gossip.”
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.