The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Pornography Law - Editors to Face Seven Years in Jail

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An internet service provider who fails to control pornography and thereby permits it to be uploaded or downloaded commits an offence for which they are liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred currency points (Shs 10m) or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both.

The act also establishes child pornography by providing that whoever is proven guilty of committing such an offence would be liable to a fine not exceeding seven hundred and fifty currency points (Shs 15m) or imprisonment not exceeding 15 years or both.

According to Lokodo, the local ssenga TV/radio programmes and entertainment halls or theatres that disseminate pornographic material are prohibited under the bill and anyone contravening this law would be liable to the offences as provided under the proposed law.

Human rights concerns:

Reacting to the passage of the proposed law and its implementation, Kabumba Busingye, a lecturer of Constitutional Law at Makerere University, says the offences created by the law are against constitutional rights: "Much as the bill attempts to restore public morals, it violates freedom of expression and media. And the violation of these freedoms can only be premised on public interest which has to be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."

Other critics say the bill raises the centuries-old question on the benchmark of public morals and the fact that morality is inherently relative. They say the bill objectifies women and represents regression on the women's equality that the NRM government has fought hard to achieve.

"In as far as it targets women and not men, women fear that the bill will increase violence against them, including sexual violence, by men who perceive them as violating the law," says Patience. Akumu, a journalist and budding human rights activist.

Who will monitor?

To monitor and bring to book individuals that can be prosecuted and held liable for pornography related offences, Lokodo says his ministry working with other agencies like police will be responsible. The minister said the ministry also plans to have anti-pornography village and district committees.

"In our implementation strategy, we plan to recruit committees that will monitor and help us bring to book the culprits," he said.

The media will be monitored through an anti-pornography committee that is required to ensure that all media content meets the acceptable standard of public decency. Those powers are also vested in a court of law or a police officer not below the rank of superintendent of police, who may write to a newspaper, broadcaster or proprietor of any business dealing in computer, telecommunications firm, photographer, leisure, vendor or other dealer to desist from dealing in pornography.

And it is provided under the proposed law that; "A person who fails to comply with the directive commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty currency points (Shs 5m) or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both," reads clause 16 of the bill.

The anti- pornographic committee is expected to have a chairperson and six members drawn from the legal, media, cultural, religious, health, education, publishing, arts and entertainment backgrounds. All these are appointed by the minister.

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Uganda Editors to Be Jailed Over Law

Media houses and tabloids in Uganda to face jail over Anti-Pornography Bill (file photo)

Human rights activists have protested the New Anti-Pornography Bill aimed at prosecuting media houses and tabloids calling it an attack to media freedom. Read more »