By Jeff Andrew Lule
KAMPALA - The Uganda Communications Communication (UCC) is to regulate social media content and internet usage.
Speaking at the closing of a UCC digital regulation training at City Royal Hotel in Kampala last week, the body’s executive director Godfrey Mutabazi, said as regulators of the communication sector, they have to enforce discipline among internet users so that they don’t infringe on other people’s rights.
He said the training was aimed at preparing their staff in changing times of technology and how to handle the situation.
The three-day training which included awarding of certificates was facilitated by a United Kingdom-based firm – Albany Consultancy –, experts in communications, media and technology.
“We have to move with times of digital innovations and regulation must be enforced. We are under obligation to organise and protect peoples’ rights to information and freedom of expression,” he noted.
Mutabazi said they want to make sure that people use social media and internet responsibly.
“Digital and internet is the language today. Just imagine how many TV channels will be accessed using digital migration. Our children access any content through mobile internet on phones and tablets. Some social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube allow undesirable content which is not good for our people,” came his emphasis.
The UCC boss said they also intend to formulate a policy and push for a law after a thorough study.
“We shall not band nor infringe on people’s rights but to monitor the activities and content delivered on these sites. We intend to work with security operatives and IT experts.”
He said it is very easy to trace security threat messages through social media, adding that some content can be a security threat to the country.
Mutabazi said they are going to sensitize and engage various stakeholders to understand the concept.
The director of Albany Consultancy, Douglas Griffin, said UCC must regulate but also balance the freedom of expression to avoid infringing on media freedom.
“The regulation is necessary but it must have a limit. But there is need to monitor content flow to avoid any content which is a security threat to the country,” he said.
Griifin said the local regulatory body must also focus on how to use such platforms in the development of the country.
Solomon Mayanja, a worker with MTN Telecom Company, said it is a good move to control content especially content which is undesirable, but he insisted everything must be done with the involvement of stakeholders.
The director of Burt Systems, a website designing and technical computer services company, Herbert Baguma was both skeptical and critical of the move.
He wondered how government can monitor social media when they have failed on phone registration.
“They have failed on phone registration, national identity cards and still struggling to increase teachers’ salaries. They are handling many things at a go. Where are they going to get resources? It might be a good idea but I doubt whether it will work out,” he said.
Silver Ahimbisibwe, a retired journalist, said most social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube self-regulate against pornographic content and that they can just tackle sectarian issues through dialogue rather than using the law.
Margaret Mukundane, a secretary in the ministry of defense, said social media content, and other media players need to be controlled because they “go beyond their limits”.