UCC taps opposition, journalists internet chats

Mobile Phone users

A 2015 Internet report says the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the country’s regulator of the communications sector, taps conversations of opposition politicians, activists and journalists.

Titled the “State of Internet Freedom in East Africa 2015”, the report says the Uganda regulator [UCC] admitted to tapping online conversations of LGBT community, journalists and opposition activists.

The revelation sent journalists and opposition activists into a panic over their online safety.

This research was carried out by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) with support from the Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (Hivos) and the Open Technology Fund (OTF).

The report presents the findings of a study on the threats to access, privacy and security online, as well as the knowledge, attitudes and practices of citizens on internet freedom in East Africa; Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

It says there are 11.9 million internet users in Uganda, implying a 34% penetration rate.

Telephone penetration stands at 62%.76.

Government phobia for Mbabazi

Uganda has 29 registered political parties and to date three general elections have been held since the reintroduction of multiparty politics.

The next elections are scheduled for February 2016 with President Yoweri Museveni who has been in power for 29 years among the contestants.

On June 17 2015, political tensions mounted when Amama Mbabazi, Uganda’s former Prime Minister and secretary general of the ruling party, took to Youtube to officially announce his intention to run in the 2016 presidential elections.

In a rebuttal video to Mbabazi’s announcement, Museveni linked Mbabazi aides to the WhatsApp audio recordings whose authors he had asked the police to arrest and to other “false” documents circulating on social media, which he said were tarnishing his government’s image and inciting ethnic tensions.

The report says Museveni curtailed NGOs to frustrate crowdsourcing and social media tools increasingly used by NGOs.

It also says the 2014 Data Protection and Privacy Bill undermines personal privacy.


Under the Anti-Terrorism act, government interception and surveillance extends to letters and postal packages, telephone calls, faxes, emails and other communications, access to bank accounts, as well as monitoring meetings of any group of persons.

State monitoring was believed to be achieved through police orders and directives from telecommunications regulatory authorities and intelligence services to service providers

Some bloggers and activists said information tapped from mobile phones to establish their physical location held them back from expressing themselves freely online on some topics.

Government also monitors communications through IP address activity and telephone logs Geographic Position Systems (GPS) technologies for tracing individuals’ movements and locations, particularly made possible by the SIM card registration exercises.

Shaka’s arrest

In February 2015, the Uganda communication regulator reportedly threatened to “shut down social media sites over misuse by the public.”

This came in the wake of concerns over the use of social media to leak and share pornographic content.

In the same month, Ugandan authorities arrested Robert Shaka, accusing him of being behind the pseudonym Tom Voltaire Okwalinga (TVO), whose Facebook account was allegedly used to disclose supposed government secrets.

Police ransacked Shaka’s home without a search warrant, and confiscated his personal electronic devices including an iPad, laptop, mobile phone and flash disks.

In June 2015, Robert Shaka was again arrested under Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011 for using computers and other electronic devices to issue “offensive communication”.

The report also cites victimisation of women online.

These include; musician Desire Luzinda and television personalities Anita Fabiola and Sanyu Mweruka, whose nude pictures and sex tapes were leaked and later subjected to threats of prosecution.

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