Postal businesses Opposed to New Uganda Media Bill
Private postal operators have questioned the motives of the Uganda Communications Regulatory Authority Bill, arguing that it will negatively affect their businesses as it comes with unrealistic controls which threaten clients’ rights and freedoms.
This new bill seeks to regulate broadcasting, telecommunication and postal service providers by creating one governing body, the Uganda Communications Regulatory Authority, which replaces both Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the Broadcasting Council.
One article in this bill gives the director general of the regulatory authority powers to examine private mail by post if the Authority believes that the articles contain ‘prohibited subject matter’ or items that may be deemed threatening, obscene or of ‘grossly offensive character’. This to some postal operators is unacceptable.
In a telephone interview, Mr Edmund Mutebi, the country manager, TNT courier services said that allowing authorities to open some private mail without the knowledge and authorisation of the sender would affect the whole business as the clients will no longer be assured of privacy.
“This should depend on which kind of mail you are opening. You cannot go ahead and open mail without the sender’s permission. What if it is a business mail and contains quotations or bids, then you access the information and may be leak it to competitors. When you go ahead and open such mail, then you are clearly undermining the right of the sender. In this case it is not proper and its implementation will hurt our business,” Mr Mutebi said.
This was supported by Mr Rogers Mugume, the head of courier operations at Daks couriers who in a separate interview disapproved of this new bill insisting that it would directly undermine the rights of both the sender and intended receiver.
“We always request senders to declare the contents of their mails and parcels. We then scan them in their presence to ensure that what is contained there is lawful and secure. Therefore opening a mail/parcel in the absence of either the sender or intended receiver would be infringing on the right to privacy. It will actually send away clients. Such articles should be removed as they are not business friendly.”
Conversely, Mrs Dorothy Kihika, the marketing manager of DHL Uganda said that it is acceptable for the legitimate authorities to intercept and cross check mail provided they consider it dangerous to country’s security.
“The regulatory authority has the right to open and check mail for matters of security of the whole society. This is done to ensure safety. While we talk about privacy, we should not forget country security. Under normal circumstances, we check the properties of our clients in their presence. However, if authorities sense danger, they can open and check these parcels again in our presence. But this rarely happens as we ensure that what we are carrying is thoroughly checked by our agents,” Mrs Kihika said.
In a different interview, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director Uganda Communications Commission softened the effects of this bill insisting that it will not affect any business as it only contains articles that have been operation in the past years.
“There is nothing new in there. What you call a new media bill is a consolidated bill got from older bills. Whatever is in that bill has been in existence in the last ten years. If people are not happy because they believe it infringes on their rights then it should be contested in court. They have the right to challenge new or old bills.”
The Uganda postal and courier sub-sector has more than 30 players including national, regional and international couriers.