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Right to information activists ask gov’t to restore facebook

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The right-to-information activists have challenged the Government to respect citizen’s right access to information and restore Facebook, one of the online social networking services owned by American technology giant, Meta Platforms.

It follows a ban on Facebook imposed by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in January 2021, after the social media giant deleted accounts operated by government officials on grounds of seeking to manipulate public debate prior to general polls.

The activists made the call during the commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information at the National Information Communication Technology – ICT Innovation Hub Nakawa in Kampala on Friday organized by Twaweza, an East African NGO that operates in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The 2023 celebration took the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – UNESCO’s global theme: “The Importance of the Online Space for Access to Information’’ and subtheme; “Ensuring Universal Access in a Digital Era’’with an objective to promote free and secure online space and digital access to information.

Dr. John Baptist Imoka, a Lecturer at Makerere University Department of Journalism and Communication implored the government to denounce attempts to restrict access to information on online platforms and interrupt activities of such digital platforms citing Facebook.

Dr. Imokola reasoned that the rights of people to access or distribute information on online platforms are being abused or stopped under the disguise of enforcing cyber security which fundamentally violates the Access to Information Act (No. 6 of 2005) and Article 41 of the Constitution.

Speaking at the same event, Charity Komujjurizi, an official from the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) notes that already over 33 out of 45 million Ugandans have no access to the internet, thus limiting access to information deprives them of access to information on employment opportunities and other development programs.

Safia Nalule Jjuuko, the Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission – EOC argued digital information era is inevitable in the modern-day world and is the cornerstone of any progressive society for true democracy, transparent governance, and genuine sustainable development.

A 2021 report by the International Telecommunications Union – ITU, a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for many matters related to information and communication technologies revealed that 33 percent of the World’s population of 7.888 billion people is not on the Internet.

The Minister of State for National Guidance, Godfrey Kabbyanga who officiated the event underscored the government’s ambitious journey to digitally transform the country. He explained that the roadmap to digital transformation is not just a vision on paper, but a working strategy being brought to life each day.

The Minister cited key initiatives under this roadmap including Digital Literacy Programs which focus on youth and elders; Digital Infrastructure expansion to ensure internet accessibility to the most remote areas and government e-services aimed at achieving transparency and accountability.

Kabbyanga lauded the Africa Freedom of Information Centre – AFIC and Twaweza East Africa for their instrumental role in Uganda’s digital transformation by creating awareness on ATI, building portals such as the Ask Your Government portal, and building the capacity of more than 400 public officials, more than 600 citizens champions, and community groups.

“There are on-ground insights, feedback, and tireless efforts that have shaped many policies and projects including the current process to review and amend the ATI Act 2005, and the digital transformation road map among others,” said Kabbyanga.