The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has directed Internet service providers to immediately suspend services to online publications, which have not secured its clearance.
UCC described as unauthorised other online data communication service providers, which have not complied with the March 6 directive to obtain authorisation.
The new directive issued by UCC on Tuesday, lists 14 publishers that should be spared the disruption because the commission is currently considering their applications.
The publishers include Nile Post News Uganda, China Haijang Online Africa Ltd, Dimension Media Ltd, Post Media Ltd, Uganda Online Website dictionary, Hive Digital, Mirror Digital, Trumpet Media Ltd, News Post Ltd, Newscom Uganda Ltd, Hotspot Ltd, Chimp Media Ltd, and Guide to Uganda.
UCC executive director Godfrey Mutabazi in an interview said the move is aimed at ensuring order and accountability among online publications so that their contents don’t contravene the law.
It is not clear how the commission intends to clampdown on noncompliance, but Mr Mutabazi said the commission is a regulator and not the police to arrest such publishers.
But Mr Gerald Businge, a digital journalism and multimedia production lecturer at the Makerere University School of Liberal and Performing Arts, dismissed UCC’s move as futile.
“They are engaging in a futile exercise because nowhere in the world can the government regulate online publications because most websites are hosted outside countries of jurisdiction,” he said.
Mr Businge said Internet is a free platform, which even when blocked, will always have alternative ways of access.
Operate within the laws
However, Mr Giles Muhame, the president of Uganda Online Publications Association, said they agreed with UCC last month to list online publications, names of business owners, and physical addresses.
He said they also agreed to operate within the laws that govern media operations in the country.
Unlike Uganda, which has set for online publishers an annual subscription fee of $20 (about Shs74,192), Tanzania last week levied $900 (about Shs3,338,673) for its online publishers.