The IPI global network is deeply concerned by the ratification of new legislation in Uganda criminalizing certain types of internet activity, which may curtail freedom of expression and undermine the work of journalists. We urge the government to immediately repeal this legislation and to respect press freedom and the right to information online.
On October 13, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a new law criminalising certain types of internet activity. The legislation includes prison terms of up to seven years for various offences, including for accessing and sharing of information about another individual without their authorization. Furthermore, people indicted under the new law could be barred from holding public office for ten years. This tightens the restrictions propagated by the 2011 Computer Misuse Act, which was introduced with the aim of preventing the abuse of information systems.
IPI joins other press freedom groups in condemning these developments over concerns that the measures will be used to silence government critics and undercut the work of investigative journalists.
Gilbert Senduguwa, executive director of Africa Freedom of Expression Center, told IPI that he found the new law “troubling”. He also went on to say, “We are also concerned that with government’s bad record, such a law may be a tool to be used against independent journalists, CSOs and legitimate political opposition”.
The restriction of media freedom in Uganda has been intensifying over the past few years, including during the 2021 presidential elections, when authorities harassed and physically assaulted several reporters, leaving many of them in hospital. These attacks were mainly directed against journalists engaged in covering the opposition candidates. Furthermore, the government blocked access to several social media websites.
“IPI is gravely concerned over the latest amendments to Uganda’s Computer Misuse Act, which will further weaken the media freedom environment in Uganda,” IPI Director of Advocacy Amy Brouillette said. “It provides the government with a tool to target critical voices and punish independent journalists. IPI calls on the authorities to repeal the Computer Misuse Act, including these latest amendments, and ensure that reporters are able to do their work safely and freely.”