The Human Rights Network for Journalists in Uganda (HRNJ-U) is set to challenge the passing of the Communications Amendment Bill in court.
The bill which was passed by parliament on Thursday seeks to amend the Section 93(1) with justifications that Parliament enacted conflicting provisions that require parliamentary approval of the regulations made by the Minister of Information, ICT and National Guidance.
According to HRNJ National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala, the decision by parliament will cause undermining of people’s freedom to speech and expression.
“The problem with the bill is that the Minister has been given power to single handedly control communications in the country, which is a very sensitive sector,” Ssempala told journalists on Tuesday.
The bill gives extraordinary powers to the Minister of Information, ICT and National Guidance to pass all regulations governing the communication industry in the country.
“Ugandans must now prepare to see the Minister ordering for a closure of a media house at will, switching off internet and ordering what must be carried in the media given his privileged position,” said Ssempala.
Uganda has previously closed a number of media Houses which were seen as producing anti-government content, all in the name of national security.
In 2015, government shutdown social media and mobile financial elections during the February Presidential elections and the presidential swearing in ceremony; which decisions have been challenged.
With the new bill, the minister will not have to consult from anybody; not even the parliament when making decisions such as those.
“Media has to seek for legal redress to challenge the powers of the Minister given that Parliament has now sold its soul and abdicated its role of representing us by controlling the Minister,” noted Ssempala.
“The Network is currently discussing how to tame the powers of the Minister through Judicial processes in the country as the only remedy to trim the powers of the Minister.