25 February 2013

Uganda: SIM-Card Registration Case Kicks Off

The High Court today hears a case in which Human Rights Network for Journalists sued Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) and the Attorney General over Sim-cards registration.

The case is before Justice Eldad Mwangusya. The journalists are seeking court order to restrain the Uganda Communication Commission from going ahead with the registration.

Sim-card registration is a compulsory exercise which requires whoever owns a handset to register. Those who do not register by February28 will have their phones disconnected. So far it is only the Attorney General's office which has responded to the suit.

The journalists are seeking a court order restraining Uganda Communication Commission, the Attorney General and their agents from switching off or directing telecommunication service providers to switch off the users of unregistered Sim-cards on the March1, 2013 or any other deadline set by the Commission before rectifying the anomalies as per the suit.

Through Web Advocates and Associates, the journalists want court to declare that the UCC, Attorney General and their agents have not carried out structured and sufficient public consultations, sensitisation and awareness.

The Human Right Network for Journalists is further seeking a court declaration that the Uganda Communication Commission and the Attorney breached their respective statutory duties when they failed to supervise, streamline, evaluate, regulate and enhance the SIM-card registration exercise which was entirely carried out by telecommunication service providers in a manner that is illegal, irregular, unsatisfactory and deleterious to the privacy and security of the people of Uganda.

The Human Right Network for journalists accused Communication Commission of condoning unlawful practice by obtaining personal details of consumers of the telecommunication services by using forms which inconsistent with the law.

"That the deadline and the directives or notices complained of in this application are not backed by any legislative instrument. They were not published in the Uganda Gazette, and they were neither laid before nor approved by Parliament as required by law," the suit reads in part.

Human Right Network for Journalists argued that the deadline and the directives or notices complained of violates or threaten to violate the right to communication, freedom from deprivation of property, and other related rights of consumers of telecommunication services.

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