It’s the #UGBlogWeek again, time to write about the issues that surround us, that shape us and affect us, all within a theme.
To choose from, we had the following themes;
• Culture and Norms
• Freedom of Expression
• Mother Politics
There was a poll, so much for democracy; votes were cast and the best theme, as wanted by “the people” won, and here we are, Freedom of Expression.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Freedom of Expression in Uganda is well provided for in The 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Article 29 (1)a-e
It is elaborate in its provision on the freedom of opinion, expression and information guarantees.
To add to Article 29(1)a-e;
Article 41(1) provides that “Every citizen has a right of access to information in the possession of the State or any other agency of the State…”
Though it carries some limitations, exceptions like most laws do and these provide a backdoor to stifling of the freedoms and rights of Ugandans.
Under Article 20(1), the right to expression and access to information is “inherent and not granted by the State”.
By respecting and promoting the right, the State is merely fulfilling its constitutional obligation and not doing anyone a favor.
The beauty about our constitution is Article 43(2a-c) of the Constitution which provides a “limitation upon limitations” on freedom of expression, narrowing the scope of application of the limitations.
This makes the 1995 Uganda Constitution one of the best in Africa with some of the best Provisions on “Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.”
In practice, however, this fundamental human right is frequently restricted through tactics that include censorship, restrictive press legislation, harassment of journalists, bloggers and others who voice their opinions, as then the infamous crackdown on Social Media and Mobile Money Services.
The constitution provides for freedom of expression and of the press; however, these rights are often undermined by provisions in the penal code, including laws on criminal libel and treason, as well as by extralegal actions by the government.
There are so many bad laws in the Penal Code Act on the justification of limitations of freedom of expression and information which do not conform to International Standards or the Constitution.
Lately these limitations have been increased in form of Acts which are hastily passed through the parliament, mostly when the deputy speaker is presiding and on a visit to Kyankwanzi cornerstone or to the tune of a 5m stipend.
The Public Order Management Law, passed in August 2013, grants police (The IGP in partucular) wide discretionary powers to permit or disallow public meetings.
It has generally been implemented to undermine or obstruct Ugandans’ assembly rights when protesting against government.
The Anti-Terrorism Act (2002) permits increased surveillance of internet and mobile-phone communications in the context of antiterrorism campaigns and
hands out death sentences to journalists convicted of publishing news or materials that promote terrorism.
The 2010 Regulation of Interception of Communications (RIC) Act, 2010 was passed on its First reading and was assented to by the President on the 5th August 2010 and became law shortly thereafter.
It provides for the lawful interception and monitoring of certain communications in the course of their transmission through a telecommunication, postal or any other related service or system in Uganda
The main threat to Uganda’s internet freedom in 2012 involved the passage of the Uganda Communications Act 2012 in September, which created a new regulatory body for all print, broadcast, and electronic media in Uganda—the Uganda Communications Regulatory Authority.
Is there Freedom of Expression in Uganda? As a Ugandan living in Uganda, I say Yes.
And give a 6/10. Because you’re free to say all you want to say, access the information you want to access, unless it’s not deemed political.
But Freedoms must be absolute, less of which they are as good as denied.
The Ugandan situation is summarised by a quote older than three quarters of the country’s population.
“You have Freedom of Expression, but Freedom after Expression isn’t guaranteed.” Idi Amin.
Like they say, Uganda is a ‘Conceptual Country’ all theory, no implementation.
The laws are good but they hardly hold due to the firm grip the Government has on all arms of state including the Judiciary.
There is only one Supreme Law: The Order from Above.