Netizen Report: Uganda and Nigeria Seek Stricter Controls for Social Media

Digital Content

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

On the heels of a forced social media shutdown during presidential elections in February 2016, Ugandan parliamentarians may soon impose new levels of state control over social media. According to Minister for the Presidency Frank Tumwebaze, regulators want to amend the Uganda Communications Act 2013 in order to “regulate what goes on in the communication sector for the good of Ugandans and their security,” though the exact provisions of the regulation are unclear at this stage.

What has been confirmed is that supporters of the change would push to remove a clause that requires the communications minister to obtain approval from parliament before making any change to the Communications Act. In short, this would remove a critical check on the minister’s power, broadening his abilities to change policy unilaterally.

In an interview with Nigerian tech news site TechCabal, opposition Member of Parliament Kassiano Wadri warned that the amendment could have disastrous consequences for the country:

“The decision to grab the power of parliament is intended to instil fear in the population because President Museveni wants to be a big brother. Parliament is there as a checking mechanism, and removing this mechanism will lead to a dictatorship.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Senate has revived a contentious social media bill that could endanger free expression in the country. Known by its critics as the “Frivolous Petition Bill” and the “Anti-Social Media Bill,” the legislation imposes harsh penalties for sending tweets or text messages that contain false statements against a “group of persons” or an “institution or government.” Violations are punishable by fines as high as N2,000,000 (US$10,000) or two years in jail. The bill remains contentious within the Nigerian government, with the nation’s chief justice supporting it and the attorney general of the federation opposing it. Digital rights advocates and various public figures have widely criticized the initiative.
Source: Global Voices Online 16 March 2016