Digital Media in Uganda: Where Regulation and Freedom of Expression Contradictions Are Sharpest

Digital Media in Uganda: Where Regulation and Freedom of Expression Contradictions Are Sharpest

Brian Semujju (Uganda Christian University, Uganda & Makerere University, Uganda)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3822-6.ch050
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Abstract

This chapter is an analysis of the law in the face of the growing digital media in Uganda. It begins with a summary of Uganda's digital media terrain which helps the chapter to raise an argument of numbers in relation to relevance and external pressure, as forces behind digital media regulation. The background introduces the gist of the chapter, which is the regulation of Uganda's media in the digital age. A recent court case in Uganda, in which a local singer was sentenced to one year in jail along with her video producer, who was convicted for producing a pornographic music video that was distributed online, inspires this chapter. Didi Mugisha pleaded guilty and became the first victim of the Anti-Pornography Act, which was signed into law in 2014. Beyond that court drama and the international fame it garnered are some serious concerns. First is the relationship between the bulk of Uganda's media laws and the existing producer/consumer digital platforms, and secondly are the broad implications the current state of affairs of that and similar laws has on the freedom of expression.
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The Digital Media Form

The “digital revolution” is made important by the fact that it uses the web as a centre stage for voice, picture and text media that previously were mutually exclusive (Verweij, 2009, p. 75). That kind of convergence has been hailed for its production capacity that is massive, for its interactivity, for defying distance over time, and for its individualization of producers and consumers (McQuail, 2010). In the pre-digital era, the video described above would have to be through a major state/private TV/film company regulated by government. The new dawn of digital media has ushered in the “convergence of citizenship and journalism” (Berger, 2011, p. 708) and created possibilities for alternative content production such as the ones used to produce the music video that this chapter analyses.The advances in mobile phones are pushing the internet possibilities further by introducing a smartphone (Weiss, 2013) which has lessened the regular visits to internet cafes. Nevertheless, issues of the digital divide cannot be neglected when discussing the digital revolution especially in Africa, a region that remains the world’s under-penetrated with subscriber growth standing at 12% (GSMA, 2015).

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