Day 3 of the Freedom of Expression theme week. Well, my second post but more will be flowing in on a single day.
The last from the government viewpoint.
“Rights and Freedoms are inherent and not granted by the State”. By respecting and promoting the freedoms, the State is merely fulfilling its constitutional obligation and not doing anyone a favor.
The State shouldn’t hold citizens hostage with claims it “brought peace”, “brought back rights”. That is, if the State respects its citizenry.
Is Freedom an absolute concept? Or can it be relative and subjective?
Is it an all or nothing arrangement? You’re either free or you’re not, is it?
Freedom is not absolute. It is a relative and subjective concept. Freedom cannot be measured, the degree to which a person is or is not free can only be determined through comparison and that comparison is completely subjective.
Freedom is also a diverse concept. It can be applied to personal, social, political, economic, academic, and religious spheres. A violation in one or more areas does not negate freedoms in the others. Nor does freedom in some spheres excuse violations in others. We can’t look at freedom as black or white, whole or nothing concept.
Does that mean infringements won’t occur at the hands of the very government erected to protect our liberties? Of course not.
Sadly the country I live in, the continent I live in and to an extent the world we live in infringes alot on freedoms.
And my country Uganda has mastered the art of infringing on freedoms and getting away with it scot free.
Bills have been passed, Acts signed. And the rights of a free man eroded.
Freedom of Expression has suffered the most with a great deal, if not all of the recent Acts of Law curtailing expression in general and dissent in particular
•The Anti-Terrorism Act (2002).
•The Regulation of Interception of Communications Act (2010).
•Uganda Communications Act 2012
•The Public Order Management Act, 2013
All these Acts have limitations on nearly all the Freedoms a Ugandan is meant to enjoy. And heavily infringe on Human Rights.
And incidents of mass abuse of rights have occurred in the light of day, most with impunity.
• In October 2014, Central Broadcasting Services (CBS) radio journalist Ronald Ssembuusi was convicted of criminal defamation over a 2011 story implying a connection between a former Kalangala district chairman and the theft of solar panels that the African Development Bank had donated. Ssembuusi was sentenced to pay a fine of 1 million shillings ($375) within a month, or serve one year in prison.
• Broadcast media regulations issued in March 2014 required all outlets to provide one free hour of prime air time per week to government officials so they could promote government policies and programs; however, the regulations have not been enforced.
Independent journalists and media outlets are often critical of the government, but in recent years they have faced substantial, escalating government restrictions and intimidation, encouraging self-censorship.
Journalists often face harassment or physical attacks by police or ordinary citizens while covering the news. And some are banned from covering certain events.
• The restrictions on internet access, and online media. Social Media has been shut down, not once but twice in 2016. During the 2016 contested Elections, Social Media and Mobile Money Services were shutdown, effecting an order from the UCC citing security reasons.
It was once more shutdown in May 2016, on the day of the swearing in of the President. A trend that is sweeping through other despotic states in sub saharan Africa.
• The government has reportedly sought to increase surveillance of internet and mobile-phone communications in the context of antiterrorism campaigns, as permitted under the 2002 Antiterrorism Act and the 2010 Regulation of Interception of Communications Act. Under the latter, all mobile-phone users were required to register their SIM cards with the government by August 2013, after which unregistered cards were deactivated.
And earlier the revelations of the Operation Fungua Macho, an operation by security and spy agencies to spy on the prominent opposition figures and the talk of a plan to procure a pornography detection system left the country in disbelief.
• In March, police in eastern Uganda blocked two demonstrations organized by the opposition pushing for electoral reforms. Police claimed the politicians had not sought permission from the inspector general of police, as required under the new law. Eventually the rallies were permitted, but those seeking to protest against the current electoral laws often face unclear procedures and prolonged delays when seeking permissions.
• Former Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi a presidential aspirant at the time was stopped from going to Mbale to consult his supporters and detained at Kiira Road Police Station till the sunset when he was released without caution or charge.
• In June 2015, two men were arrested for smuggling two pigs into parliament as a protest against high youth unemployment rates. The two were charged with criminal trespass and conspiracy.
• In August 2015, police arrested 20 members of the Uganda National Students Association for holding a protest at the Ministry of Education, which police deemed to be an unlawful assembly. The same month, police arrested seven young men in Kampala who were peacefully demonstrating against unemployment.
• The closure of two newspapers and a radio station in 2013 and new ad-hoc policies introduced by the minister of information negatively impacted media’s operating environment. Station managers and journalists report fear of reprisals if programs are highly critical of the government.
• In March 2015, a regional police commander stormed the studios of Guide Radio in Kasese, western Uganda, and stopped a program in which the leader of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change was participating. The police commander claimed to be under orders to stop the program because it was “inciting violence.”
• And there has been frequent break ins into offices of Civil Society Organizations, NGOs and Law firms, with fingers pointing to organised raids from government security operatives.
• Nalufenya, Kasangati, Moroto and Kiira Road Police stations have become infamous for having a negative correlation with liberty.
These and many infringements have been carried on against the Freedoms that the government swears to protect and to uphold. This begs the question.
Is there Freedom of Expression in Uganda?