Technology News

UCC sued for blocking social media


The Uganda Communications Commission executive director, Godfrey Mutabazi, is expected to appear in court to answer how he reached a decision of blocking social media in the election week.

UCC shutdown Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and YouTube on Thursday [Election Day] to curtail Ugandans from communicating and reporting cases of vote rigging.

Mutabazi later claimed that the shutdown was a precautionary security measure on instructions from the Electoral Commission.

EC denied the allegation upon which the regulator explained it was trying to control bribery at the hands of the opposition and candidates campaigning illegally.

Dragged to court

Human rights watchdog Legal Brains Trust (LBT) on Friday filed an application for judicial review at the civil division of the High Court in Kampala through Centre for Legal Aid (CLA) to challenge the illegality UCC engaged in by blocking social media.

Government’s chief legal advisor and representative the Attorney General (AG) is listed as a joint co-respondent with the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and Bank of Uganda (BoU).

According to New Vision, LBT is seeking a pronouncement that UCC’s action was illogical and an infringement on the rights of consumers.

“A declaration that the 1st respondent’s(UCC) directive to telecommunications and mobile money service providers to block access by the general public to mobile money services as well as social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook for an unspecified period starting on 18 February 2016 is unjustifiable and unlawful,” the application reads in part.

The watchdog wants court to pronounce that (BoU) failed in its statutory duty to assert and protect its independence by swiftly issuing corrective directives to restore public access to mobile money services.

LBT wants court to issue an order of injunction restraining UCC from repeating the action.

The watchdog wants the AG compelled to file an affidavit of the relevant minister specifying the corrective measures taken by Government to discipline the UCC board and executive director in order to curb impunity in the regulation of the telecommunications sector and the mobile money industry.

The application is supported by the affidavit of law student Marvin Saasi, who asserts that public confidence in the service providers was dampened by the decision to block the services.

Justice Stephen Musota is scheduled to hear the application on March 16.

President Yoweri Museveni says they blocked social media to prevent opposition from mobilising youth to cause anarchy.

The commission meanwhile labelled as “treasonous” an act by some social media users who resorted to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to breach the ban.

VPN hit a million mark in downloads in Uganda during the social media ban.

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