Uganda: Keep Off Social Media - IGG to Judges

31 January 2019

Kampala — Judges have been warned about revealing details of their private life on social media as it may bring their integrity into disrepute.

The caution was sounded out yesterday by Inspector General of Government (IGG) Irene Mulyagonya at the ongoing 21st annual judges' conference in Kampala.

The ombudsman explained that a judicial officer who solicits financial support for family functions through WhatsApp may be misinterpreted by different sections of the public.

"It has been drawn to my attention where judicial officers are organising functions for their family members such as graduation parties, marriages and baptism; this shows us how dangerous social media can be. A message goes out from a judicial officer who is calling out for contributions and you know how these messages can go," Justice Mulyagonja said.

"It may raise perceptions of bias that this judicial officer is actually indirectly asking us to contribute so that when our case comes up for hearing for him/her, the officer may be partial. That is just one of the things happening and we should watch out," she added.

The ombudsman gave an example of a judicial officer from a neighbouring country whom she said lost her job after her former lover posted pictures of her on social media in a compromising love position.

The IGG also urged judges to openly declare their wealth under the Leadership Code Act so as to erase public perception that they take bribes.

Joining social clubs

At the conference, there was a heated debate on whether judges should be members of social clubs such as Rotary and golf where they find themselves mixing with other members of the public.

High Court judge Patricia Basaza Wasswa wondered whether mixing up with the rest of the public will compromise their work ethics and integrity.

In response, retired principal judge James Ogoola said such a decision depends on the discretion of the judge.

"It is a matter of discretion. It is a matter of personal judgment to me. What would be the motive of going there and what would be the public perception of you as a judge being there?" he said.

Justice Jotham Tumwesigye from the Supreme Court added that being a member of a social club cannot compromise a judicial officer's integrity.

But he was quick to warn that judges should avoid places such as saunas given their high social standing in society.

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