Uproar over Uganda’s impending Anti-Pornography Media Bill

The Ugandan parliament, last month, adopted a contentious anti-gay bill that plans to enact life-imprisonment for “offenders”, according to reports.

This controversial bill recently has sparked an international outcry with the likes of Richard Branson, a business tycoon reportedly calling for a boycott of the African country.

Critics have termed the bill odious and a step backwards in safeguarding human rights in the country. This bill continues to gain criticism globally with international bodies such as the United Nations terming it as an act that clearly denies human rights to a segment of the nation’s population.

During an interview, Ms. Shamdasani, UN’s spokesperson, further added that the government is legally obligated to prevent discrimination and should not withhold fundamental rights from certain people simply because the majority disapproves.

Other critics such as Adrian Jjuuko, the executive director of American Jewish World Service, stated that Uganda’s current trend of enacting unconstitutional laws is worrying.

Towards the end of last year, the parliament adopted a similarly contentious bill that could potentially curb media freedom, according to reports.

As a result of the latest debate in parliament, media houses in Uganda are said to be on high alert over the impending law set to curb the broadcasting and publishing of content deemed pornographic.

The bill, which awaits Presidential assent, has sparked outrage among local human rights groups who claim it limits media freedom.

The impending law could see editors face a seven-year jail term for contravention.

According to reports, media houses in Uganda are set to be closed and editors prosecuted once the President assents to the bill. Simon Lokodo-the Minister for Ethics and Integrity further stated that tabloids such as Hello, The Kampala Sun, and The Red Pepper would feel the impact of the bill following presidential assent.

Lokodo stated during an interview that the government would implement the law without compromise, adding that editors would face imprisonment if they failed to modify their content in line with the impending Anti-Pornography Bill.

Nevertheless, the Minister maintained that the new law did not target media houses. Instead, he said the law targets parties that engage in explicit sexual acts with the intention of causing moral corruption. Furthermore, any ISP or internet service provider that does not control pornographic content could equally face conviction.

Once Yoweri Museveni signs the bill, the government is expected to form committees that will monitor the varied media outlets in Uganda, reports indicate. On this note, critics and observers question how the government would scrutinize online media since parties that reside outside Uganda run and host various local websites.

This recent bill highlights Uganda’s trend in enacting prohibitory laws, according to observers. On September 12th last year, it enacted The Public Order Management Act, which critics said would cause increasing and unjust limitations on freedom of expression.

Critics and other parties assert that the Act has flaws and necessitates substantial reforms to safeguard the freedom of expression.  According to critics, some of the Act’s shortcomings include the failure to provide for the protection and facilitation of concurrent and counter-demonstrations.

As the country awaits the President’s response to the impending Anti-Pornography Bill, activists and various critics maintain their strong condemnation against the ongoing trend in Uganda. Meanwhile critics and observers alike also remain apprehensive of Uganda’s future regarding human rights.

Photo-Simon Lokodo-Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity