Internet censors of the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) have instructed telecommunications companies and ISPs to block a list
of pornography websites. Godfrey Mutabazi, Executive Director at the UCC, has said that they have identified 17 popular local and 10 international pornography websites which they, as the UCC, have asked ISP's and telecommunications companies to
The commission received the list of porn sites from the Pornography Control Committee. The committee has established that the list of the websites attached hereto is currently streaming pornography to Uganda in breach of section 13 of the
Anti-Pornography Act, 2014.
Mutabazi has warned that telecom companies and internet providers risk penalties if they don't comply with the new directive.
Perhaps the recent introduction of high taxes on social media websites has pushed Ugandans onto the next best internet freebie, porn.
When she went to Egypt for vacation, Mona el-Mazbouh surely didn't expect to end up in prison. But after the
24-year-old Lebanese tourist posted a video in which she complained of sexual harassment--calling Egypt a lowly, dirty country and its citizens pimps and prostitutes--el-Mazbouh was arrested at Cairo's airport and found guilty of deliberately
spreading false rumors that would harm society, attacking religion, and public indecency. She was sentenced to eight years in prison.
The video that el-Mazbouh posted was ten minutes long, and went viral on Facebook, causing an uproar in Egypt. In the video, el-Mazbouh also expressed anger about poor restaurant service during Ramadan and complained of her belongings being
stolen. Egyptian men and women posted videos in response to her original video, prompting el-Mazbouh to delete the original video and post a second video on Facebook apologizing to Egyptians.
Nevertheless, Mona was arrested at the end of her trip at the Cairo airport in May 31, 2018 and charged with spreading false rumors that aim to undermine society, attack religions, and public indecency. Under Egyptian law, defaming and insulting
the Egyptian people is illegal.
Unhappy tourists have always criticized the conditions of the countries they visit; doing so online, or on video, is no different from the centuries of similar complaints that preceded them offline or in written reviews. Beyond the injustice of
applying a more vicious standard online to offline speech, this case also punishes Mona for a reaction that was beyond her control. Mona had no influence over whether her video went viral. She did not intend her language or her actions to reach a
wider audience or become a national topic of discussion. It was angry commenters' reactions and social media algorithms that made the video viral and gave it significance beyond a few angry throwaway insults.
Mona el-Mazbouh is just one of many innocent Internet users who have been caught up in the Egyptian governments' attempts to vilify and control the domestic use of online media. At minimum, she should be released from her ordeal and returned to
her country immediately. But more widely, Egypt's leaders need to pull back from their hysterical and arbitrary enforcement of repressive laws, before more people -- including the foreign visitors on which much of Egypt's economy is based -- are
Uganda has just introduced a significant tax on social media usage. It is set at 200 shillings a day which adds up to about 3% of the average annual
income if used daily.
Use of a long list of websites including Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Tinder triggers the daily taxed through billing by ISPs.
And as you may expect Uganda internet users are turning to VPNs so that ISPs can't detect access to taxed apps and websites.
In response, the government says it has ordered local ISPs to begin blocking VPNs. In a statement, Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi said that Internet service providers would be ordered to block VPNs to prevent
citizens from avoiding the social media tax.
Mutabazi told Dispatch that ISPs are already taking action to prevent VPNs from being accessible but since there are so many, it won't be possible to block them all. In the meantime, the government is trying to portray VPNs as more expensive to
use than the tax. In a post on Facebook this morning, Mutabazi promoted the tax as the sensible economic option.
it appears that many Ugandans are outraged at the prospect of yet another tax and see VPN use as a protest, despite any additional cost. Opposition figures have already called for a boycott with support coming in from all corners of society. The
government appears unmoved, however. Frank Tumwebaze, Minister of Information Technology and Communications said:
If we tax essentials like water, why not social media?
Uganda is reviewing its decision to impose taxes on the use of social media and on money transactions by mobile phone, following a public backlash.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda made the announcement soon after police broke up a protest against the taxes.
President Yoweri Museveni had pushed for the taxes to boost government revenue and to restrict criticism via WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
The social media tax is 6000 Uganda shillings a month (£1.25), but it is represents about 3% of the average wage. Activists argue that while the amount may seem little, it represents a significant slice of what poorer people are paying for getting
online. There is also a 1% levy on the total value of mobile phone money transactions, affecting poorer Ugandans who rarely use banking services.
In a statement to parliament, Rugunda said:
Government is now reviewing the taxes taking into consideration the concerns of the public and its implications on the budget.
A revised budget is due to be tabled in parliament on 19 July.
Update: And the government continues to repress the people
On July 1, the Ugandan government began enforcing a new law that imposes a 200 shilling [US$0.05, 2£0.04] daily levy on people using internet messaging platforms, despite protests to the contrary from local and international online free speech
This move, according to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, has the dual purpose of strengthening the national budget and also curtailing gossip by Ugandans on social media. It was also popular among local telecom providers, who do not directly
benefit from the use of foreign-based over-the-top services such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp.
The polic was preceded with an order to register all new mobile SIM cards with the National Biometric Data Centre. The measure also forces Ugandans to only use mobile money accounts in order to recharge their SIM cards and makes it mandatory to
pay a one percent levy on the total value of transaction on any mobile money transaction .
These new policies make it more costly for Ugandans -- especially those living in poverty -- to communicate and perform everyday tasks using their mobile devices.
On July 2, civil society and legal advocates in Uganda filed a court challenge against the law, arguing that it violates the country's constitution.
A protester demonstrates his opposition to Uganda's social media tax at a gathering on July 6, 2018.
On July 6, concerned citizens and civil society advocates issued a joint press statement [see below] calling on Ugandans to avoid paying the tax by using alternate methods to exchange money and access social media, and to join a National Day of
Peaceful Protest Against Unfair Taxation on Wednesday, July 11, 2018.
The Global Voices community and our network of friends and allies wish to support this and other efforts to demand an end to the tax. We believe that this tax is simply a ploy to censor Ugandans and gag dissenting voices.
We believe social media should be freely accessible for all people, including Ugandans. The Ugandan social media tax must go!
On Monday, July 9, beginning at 14:00 East Africa Time, we plan to tweet at community leaders, government and diplomatic actors, and media influencers to increase awareness and draw public attention to the issue. We especially encourage fellow
bloggers and social media users all over the world to join us.
In May, Tanzanian bloggers lost an appeal that had temporarily suspended a new set of regulations granting the country's Communication
Regulatory Authority discretionary powers to censor online content.
Officially dubbed the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, 2018 , the statute requires online content creators -- traditional media websites, online TV and radio channels, but also individual bloggers and podcasters
-- to pay roughly two million Tanzanian shillings (930 US dollars) in registration and licensing fees.
They must store contributors' details for 12 months and have means to identify their sources and disclose financial sponsors. Cyber cafes must install surveillance cameras, and all owners of electronic mobile devices, including phones, have to
protect them with a password. Failure to comply with the regulations -- which also forbid online content that is indecent, annoying, or that leads to public disorder -- will result in a five million Tanzanian shillings (2,202 US dollars) fine, a
jail term of not less than a year or both.
These new regulations are already forcing young content creators--and often poorer ones--offline. For a country like Tanzania, whose GDP per capita is 879 US dollars --and where approximately 70% of the population lives on less than two dollars a
day--the financial burden of these new laws means it is impossible to continue blogging.
A regional office of Nigeria's National Film and Video
Censors Board said it had burned pornographic films valued at millions of naira.
The burning of the pornographic materials, which took place at the Benin Centre office of the Board in Edo State, was performed by the Executive Director of the Board, Alhaji Adedayo Thomas. He said that there is no hiding place for sellers of
pornographic materials, stressing that the Board will continue its clamp down on their activities.
Adedayo noted that the Board will continue to engage the stakeholders and enlighten them on the dangers of dealing on pornographic materials to the society. He added that the Board has set up a special squad charged with the responsibility
of tackling the menace of pornography on the youth.
Inxeba (The Wound) is a 2017 South Africa / Germany / Netherlands / France gay romance by John Trengove.
Starring Nakhane Touré, Bongile Mantsai and Niza Jay.
Xolani, a lonely factory worker, travels to the rural mountains with the men of his community to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When a defiant initiate from the city discovers his best-kept secret, Xolani's entire existence begins
Award-winning movie Inxeba's reclassification as pornography has been overturned by the High Court in Pretoria' on the grounds that it was procedurally unfair and unlawful.
However, Judge Joseph Raulinga has stressed that Inxeba (The Wound)' which depicts a homosexual relationship between two men at an initiation school' violated the rights to dignity of Xhosa people. Furthermore' he said' if cultural beliefs and
practices are to be considered' the film is harmful and disturbing and exposes 16-year-olds to the sexual conduct depicted in the film.
The film included language that was degrading to Xhosa women and further exposes women to societal violence, such as rape. It contains harmful scenes that could cause tensions within the Xhosa community and even within the broader African
community. By implication, it has an effect on the rights of the Xhosa traditional group' he said.
Throughout his judgment' Raulinga stressed that the Inxeba filmmakers' rights to freedom of expression could not override the rights to dignity of Xhosa people.
Rafiki is a 2018 Kenya / South Africa drama by Wanuri Kahiu.
Starring Patricia Amira, Muthoni Gathecha and Jimmy Gathu.
Rafiki, which means friend in Swahili, is adapted from the 2007 Caine Prize-winning short story, Jambula Tree, by Ugandan writer Monica Arac Nyeko. It follows two close friends, Kena and Ziki, who eventually fall in love despite their
families being on opposing sides of the political divide.
The first Kenyan film to debut at the Cannes Film Festival has been banned in Kenya due to its lesbian storyline.
The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) claimed the film seeks to legitimize lesbian romance. KFCB warned that anyone found in possession of the film would be in breach of the law in Kenya, where gay sex is punishable by 14 years.
The film's director Wanuri Kahiu told the BBC: I really had hoped that the classification board would classify it as an 18. Because we feel the Kenyan audience is a mature, discerning enough audience.
The film, which will be shown in Cannes next month,
Blogging has been popular in Tanzania for more than a decade, enabling writers and independent journalists to express views and report news that
might not otherwise appear in mainstream media. But as of last month, this kind of work will come with a price tag.
On March 16, 2018, the United Republic of Tanzania issued the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations demanding that bloggers must register and pay over USD $900 per year to publish online.
Application 2. These Regulations shall apply to online content including: (a) application services licensees; (b) bloggers; (c) internet cafes; (d) online content hosts; (e) online forums; (f) online radio or television; (g) social media; (h)
subscribers and users of online content; and (i) any other related online content.
The new regulations have far-reaching implications for freedom of expression and human rights. Bloggers must fill out official regulatory forms and avoid publishing prohibited content including nudity, hate speech, explicit sex acts, extreme
violence, "content that causes annoyance" fake news, and "bad language" among other restrictions.
The new regulations grant unrestrained power to the Tanzanian Communications Regulatory Authority ( TCRA ) to prescribe and proscribe. Under Part II, Number 4, TCRA then has the authority:
(a) to keep register of bloggers, online forums, online radio and online television;
(b) to take action against non-compliance to these Regulations, including to order removal of prohibited content
iAfrikan News further explains :
Online content publishers (blogs, podcasts, videos) will apply for a license at a fee of 100,000 Tanzanian Shillings (44 USD) pay an initial license fee of 1,000,000 Tanzanian Shillings (440 USD) and an annual license fee of 1,000,000 Tanzanian
Shillings (440 USD). This means to run something as simple as a personal blog (text) if you live in Tanzania, you'd have to spend an initial (approximately) $900 (USD) in license fees.
[A quick look at average salary figures on Wikipedia suggests that the average annual salary in Tanzania ia about 900,000 Tanzanian Shillings, so the licence fees are simply impossible for the majority of Tanzanians].
According to Tanzania Bloggers Network Secretary-General Krantz Mwantepele, as quoted in The Citizen, many Tanzanian bloggers cannot afford these fees because the "license applications and annual subscriptions are way beyond earnings of many
What is clear is that breaches of the new law will be punishable with a fine of "not less than five million Tanzanian shillings" (around USD $2,500), or imprisonment for "not less than 12 months or both."
Blogging as alternative news in Tanzania
Blogging emerged in Tanzania around 2007 and became popular as an alternative news platform with educated, middle class people, as well as politicians and political parties.
In Tanzania, where media historically holds strong ties to government interests, blogging opened up possibilities for individuals to establish private news outlets that proved immensely powerful in terms of reach and readership.
Before the rise of mobile apps, access to a stable Internet connected and laptop were imperative for bloggers. This set a relatively high barrier to participation for people with limited income.
There is no shortage of hostility towards Facebook at the moment, as a result of recent revelations about their exploitation of user data and
dissemination of supposed 'fake news'.
And the Ugandan Government has taken this to a whole new level and come up with a novel approach to try and steer Ugandan social media users away from US social media like Facebook and WhatsApp; a social media tax.
The social media tax proposal has been widely mocked by Ugandan internet users and experts, but it seems that the idea, which is thought to have emanated from the long-standing Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni himself, is destined to be
His justification was that because social media apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp were developed overseas, Ugandan's are merely consumers of their services and profits from these apps are all being made overseas.
Information minister Frank Tumwebaze claimed that the Ugandan Government wanted to foster online innovation at home and claimed that by taxing these overseas services, Ugandan's would be encouraged to develop their own rival apps.
Exactly how the tax will work in practice is still unclear.
South Afric's Film and Publications Amendment Bill will apply traditional pre-vetting style censorship t everything posted on the internet in
The National Assembly has approved the bill in a vote of 189 in favour, with 35 against and no abstentions. The bill must now come before the National Council of Provinces for its approval before it can be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa to be
signed into law.
Opposition parties say the Film and Publications Amendment Bill amounts to censorship - and may be unconstitutional. The Inkatha Freedom Party's Liezl van der Merwe said:
This bill through the Films and Publications Board, seeks to take wholesale control of the internet. Among some of the provisions, this bill requires everyone who generates some type of revenue from distributing content online to register, pay a
fee and have their content approved and classified before they can post it.
The party's Mbuyiseni Ndlozi says the red berets are prepared to challenge it in the Constitutional Court if necessary.
Speaking to BusinessTech, legal expert and long time opponent of the bill, Nicholas Hall, explained some of the details of the censorship provisions. Hall said that the FPB now has the power to classify and potentially ban films, games and 'other
Other publications are defined as:
Any newspaper, book, periodical, pamphlet, poster or other printed matter;
Any writing or typescript which has in any manner been duplicated;
Any drawing, picture, illustration or painting;
Any print, photograph, engraving or lithograph;
Any record, magnetic tape, soundtrack or any other object in or on which sound has been recorded for reproduction;
Computer software which is not a film;
The cover or packaging of a film;
Any figure, carving, statue or model; and
Any message or communication, including a visual presentation, placed on any distributed network including, but not confined to, the internet.
Hall said that YouTubers and streamers are most likely to be affected by the new laws:
While the amendment bill will give the FPB the power to potentially classify any content uploaded online, including private communications, they generally will only have this power if someone complains to them about the specific content.
Films and games are treated differently, however. Under the bill, a distinction is made between 'commercial distributors' and 'non-commercial distributors'. Non-commercial distributors of films and games are treated much like the creators of
'other publications', their content can only be classified if someone complains.
However, commercial distributors are required to have their content classified prior to distribution or face criminal prosecution.
Hall added that this distinction was particularly problematic as it is unclear what is defined as a 'commercial purpose', and that this could be as simple as enabling advertising on uploaded videos.
All content platforms (Youtube, Netflix, Steam etc) will now also be required to register as distributors and pay an annual fee, based on the number titles they have in their library.
The other concern is that they have built in provisions to allow them to enforce this system, one of which is to force ISPs (eg Telkom, Mweb, and Afrihost) to block access to content platforms that do not comply.
Inxeba (The Wound) is a 2017 South Africa / Germany / Netherlands / France romance by John Trengove.
Starring Nakhane Touré, Bongile Mantsai and Niza Jay.
Xolani, a lonely factory worker, travels to the rural mountains with the men of his community to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When a defiant initiate from the city discovers his best-kept secret, Xolani's entire existence
begins to unravel.
Inxeba (The Wound) is a film centred around an African custom of adulthood initiation via a circumcision ritual. It contains two simulated sex scenes and has a gay storyline.
South African film censors at Film and Publication Board (FPB} originally awarded a straightforward 16 LS rating for language and sex.
The gay theme wound up local conservatives of the Gauteng branch of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (Contralesa) and cultural organisation the Man and Boy Foundation and an appeal against the rating was lodged.
The result of the appeal was that the rating was upgraded to an X18 rating which is generally reserved for explicit hardcore pornography. Similarly to the UK, the movie can then only be screened at licensed porn cinemas, and it is effectively
banned from mainstream cinemas.
Clearly the producers of Inxeba are not well pleased and along with leading South African film industry players say the fight over the movie being reclassified as pornographic by the FPB is far from over. They have vowed to take the matter
to court. They accuse the FPB of censorship, homophobia and of not following its own governing act or classification guidelines by overturning the controversial, award-winning gay Xhosa initiation movie's original 16 LS ratin.
Inxeba (The Wound) has been unbanned by a Pretoria High Court Order and will be back on mainstream cinema screens again from Friday, March 9.
This is the result of a High Court order granted on Tuesday, in the urgent application brought by Webber Wentzel on behalf of the film's producers and distributor to reverse the X18 rating and enables the film to return to the public domain and
be relieved of its imprisonment in sex shops, branded as pornography.
While this outcome has provided momentary relief to the film as it can be screened in mainstream cinema with the rating of 18, the lifting of the ban is, however, only temporary, pending the outcome of review proceedings before the court, which
will be heard on March 28.
Democrats is a 2014 Denmark / Zimbabwe documentary by Camilla Nielsson.
Starring Paul Mangwana, Robert Mugabe and Douglas Mwonzora.
Two political opponents are appointed to write Zimbabwe's new constitution. It is the ultimate test that can bring an end to President Mugabe's 30 years of autocratic rule. It can go either way: towards the birth of a constitutional democracy -
or renewed repression.
Zimbabwe's High Court has lifted a ban on an acclaimed documentary film that portrays former president Robert Mugabe in a far from flattering light.
The film, The Democrats, by Danish filmmaker Camilla Nielsson, was made in the aftermath of Zimbabwe's violent and disputed 2008 elections. It tells the story of Zimbabwe's fraught constitution-making process. But Zimbabwe's censorship
board never allowed the film to go on sale or to be screened in the country.
Rights lawyer Bellinda Chinowawa told RFI it took a year and a half to get this High Court ruling. She called it a great victory for all Zimbabweans.
To begin with the film's production company, Upfront Films, was given the green light to make the documentary about the constitutional-making process. But when it was finally released -- to international acclaim in 2015 -- Zimbabwe's censorship
board ruled that it wasn't suitable for local audiences.
The censors never revealed why they had banned the film, they are not forced to by law. It is believed though that supporters of Robert Mugabe -- who was then president -- felt it depicted him wrongly as a dictator.