The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has instructed ISPs (Internet Service Providers) in the country to block websites of unauthorized news publications who have not had their licenses approved or have not applied for a license. This comes after the UCC issued a directive on 6 March 2018 stating that online media publications in Uganda would need to be registered and licensed in Uganda for them to be available to people accessing the Internet from the Eastern Afrikan country.
The directive issued by the UCC towards the end of April 2018 has a list of 14 media publishers that still have their applications pending and as such ISPs shouldn't block their websites.
List of online media publications that have applied for licenses in Uganda and will not be blocked.
Letter from the Uganda Communications Comission instructing ISPs to suspend unregistered media websites.
Addressing the media, Godfrey Mutabazi, Executive Director at the UCC,explained that this latest move to block unregistered news websites is aimed at ensuring that there is order and accountability among online news publications so that their content doesn't contravene the law in Uganda. In other words, censorship.
This move comes not so long after Uganda recently stated that it will be implementing a social media tax for users of platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. later in 2018.
The publishers that haven't been blocked yet given that their applications are pending approval 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 2 Uganda. However, it would be interesting to observe how the UCC plans to enforce given there are millions of news websites globally that Ugandans have access to via the Internet. Not to mention the ability to use VPN software to bypass, in some cases, such blocks.
There is also the case of online news publications , like iAfrikan, that provide news on Uganda but are hosted outside Uganda. We will be keeping up with what transpires in this regard as at the time of publishing the UCC hadn't got back to us to let us know if this directive applies to publications such as iAfrikan as well.