Government wants Google to close 14 Ugandan YouTube channels

Tuesday December 15 2020
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A screen grab of Ghetto TV relaying presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi’s campaign live. UCC said the online TV, affiliated to the Kyadondo East MP and 13 other channels should be closed for allegedly mobilising riots that resulted into the death of more than 50 people and left several injured last month. PHOTO/ COURTESY

By Job Bwire

Government through Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has written to the US based Google Inc, that owns YouTube,  a global video sharing platform, asking them to close at least 14 channels for allegedly mobilising riots that resulted into the death of more than 50 people and left several injured last month.

The channels include; TMO online, Lumbuye Fred, Trending Channel Ug, Uganda Yaffe, Uganda News Updates, Ghetto TV, Busesa Media Updates and Uganda Empya.

Others are; Map Mediya TV, KK TV, Ekyooto TV, Namungo Media, JB Muwonge 2, Bobi Wine 2021.

According to UCC, the channels were used to mobilise riots that resulted in the loss of several lives and property in Uganda. The riots broke out in Kampala on November 18, 2020 and spread to other parts of the country following the arrest of National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine.

The commission says they were moved to write to Google after receiving complaints from stakeholders including the Minister of Internal Affairs who chairs the National Security Council, the Uganda police Force and also observing that communication services, platforms and networks, including YouTube are being used to publish, disseminate, and/or broadcast content that, contrary to Uganda Communications Act of 2013 and Regulation 8 (2) of the Uganda Communications (Content) Regulation 2019.

According to government, the channels misrepresent information, views, facts and events in a manner likely to mislead the public.

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“ Contains [content] extremist or anarchic messages, including messages likely to incite violence against sections of the public on account of their tribe and political opinions. May compromise national security and cause economic sabotage,” UCC’s December 9, letter to Google reads in part.

The letter adds: “Wherefore as the regulator of the communications sector in Uganda and in accordance with Section 5 (1) (b), (j), (x), 6 and 45 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013, the commission hereby implores Google to block access to the following YouTube accounts."

In addition, UCC wants Google to “immediately stop aiding and abetting” any further breach of the regulatory and penal laws of Uganda through its communication platforms.

"To review and revise YouTube operations to ensure that it is not used to circumvent the legal and regulatory requirements of the Republic of Uganda.

UCC also wants Google to ensure that all content broadcast to Uganda through YouTube's applications and services strictly complies with Uganda's Minimum Broadcasting Standards as it’s enshrined in the act.

The letter comes days after government directed all journalists to register with Uganda Media Council a move that has been protested by media practitioners in the country.

Police said journalists without accreditation from the council would not be allowed to cover political events.

“Those without Uganda Media Council accreditation will be treated as well wishers,” police spokesperson, Mr Fred Enanga said.

US mission in Uganda lauded journalists saying they safeguard democracy by investigating, observing, and sharing information, sometimes overcoming great challenges to do so.

“The U.S. recognizes the work of dedicated journalists in Uganda and elsewhere for their essential role. Knowledge is power,” U.S mission in Uganda said on Twitter.

However, President Museveni’s spokesperson, Mr Don Wanyama said the state reserves the right to check new media tools being used to “whip up irresponsible” journalism.

"Media engaging in responsible journalism has no restrictions. But if you think you'll use new media tools to whip up tribal emotions, advocate for violence, etc then the state reserves all right to check you. Examples abound of untold loss occasioned by irresponsible press,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

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