Brace yourselves Ugandan Internet Users
Anti Pornography Act 2014?
Its official, the Anti Pornography bill was finally consented to and is now the Anti Pornography Act 2014. It has been a long time coming.
From the time this bill was made public knowledge, our local media decided either intentionally or out of ignorance to brand it the ‘Mini-Skirt Bill”. Just like many others, I was fully convinced that it was all about regulating Miniskirts in the Pearl of Africa.
To my utter shock, when I read it, I realized that there was no mention of mini-skirts anywhere. Lesson learnt, Never rely on the media to form an opinion on very sensitive issues.
With all due respect, I believe this Act has lots of positives like the punitive measures outlined for those that engage in Child pornography.
What however took me by surprise was the realization that some clauses had far reaching implications on the use of Internet in this country. Take these examples;
17. (1) An Internet Service Provider (ISP) who, by not using or enforcing the means or procedure recommended by the committee to control pornography, permits to be uploaded or downloaded through its service, any content of pornographic nature, commits an offence and is liable, on conviction to fine not exceeding five hundred currency points or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both.
This is a precursor to large scale Government led filtering of the internet. As an ISP, one will be mandated to ensure that they do not allow the passage of Pornography through their network. This defeats the very purpose of the Net neutrality debate that Ugandans have been advocating for all this time.
For ISPs to invest in content filtering, they will need to spend more money thereby passing on the cost to the customers. The net effect is higher internet costs for the consumers. Are you ready for a potential doubling in your data bundle charges?
17. (2) Where a publisher or broadcaster or internet content developer or dealer in telephone related business or Internet Service Provider (ISP) commits an offence under subsection (1), the court convicting that person may, for a subsequent offence by order, suspend the business.
With such an axe hanging above the neck of any service provider, it is only obvious that they will all try to stash up as much money as they can to counter any potential legal gymnastics they are likely to face. This again has implications on we the consumers as we have to pay for that ‘insurance’.
The reason I am thumping myself all over is due to the fact that just like most Ugandans, I too chose to wait until this Bill became an Act to bother finding out the content or even try to engage the Parliament. This trend keeps happening time and again and we seem to be reactionary whenever we are faced with such challenges.
There are established procedures one can use to meet the relevant Parliamentary Committee handling a particular bill in order to share input. Why we always wait to react after it has turned into an Act, I still wonder.
Next on the agenda that is going to definitely raise a lot of debate is the Bill on Genetically Modified Food Products. Its before Parliament and lets not wait for it to become an Act before raising hell. The proponents of GMOs have done a good job canvassing support from the Members of Parliament, those of us with alternative views need to do the same so that the decision made can have a more balanced appeal.