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Uproar over anti-pornography media bill in Uganda

Uproar over anti-pornography media bill in Uganda.

Ugandan media houses are on high alert over an impending law that is planned to curb the publishing and broadcasting of content deemed to be pornographic in nature.

Uganda’s increasingly hardline laws

In December 2013, Uganda's parliament adopted a controversial anti-gay bill that plans to see ‘offenders’ jailed for life. Adoption of the bill sparked a global outcry as the likes of British business tycoon Richard Branson has called for a boycott of the country. US President Barack Obama further described the law as "odious" while South African Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu compared the bill to apartheid. But Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power in the country since 1986, has said he does not plan to rush into signing the anti-gay bill into law.

The bill, which is awaiting presidential approval, has local human rights group in the country up in arms as they say it could curb media freedom.

The impending law is expected to see editors face seven years in jail for contravention.

The bill describes pornography as follows: “communication or speech or information or literature or publication in whole or publication in part or news story or entertainment or stage play or broadcast or music or dance or art or graphic or picture or photography or video recording or leisure activity or show or exhibition that depicts a person engaged in explicit sexual activities or conduct, sexual parts of a person such as breast, thighs, buttocks or genitalia, erotic behaviour intended to cause sexual excitement or any indecent act or behaviour tending to corrupt morals.”

Local tabloid papers such as Red Pepper, Hello and Kampala Sun have in the past published articles and pictures bordering on full pornography.

And if the anti-pornography bill is signed by President Yoweri Museveni, then these publications could see themselves out of business, facing court fines and even jail sentences for their content producers.

The bill further reads in part: “a person who produces or participates in the production of, or traffics in, or publishes or broadcasts or procures or imports or exports or in any way abets pornography contrary to subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred currency points (Shs 10m or $4,000) or imprisonment not exceeding seven years or both.”

Government, though, says once the bill is signed into law, committees are expected to then subsequently monitor media outlets in the country.

“We are going to enforce the law without compromise. So, the moment it commences to be law, the Red Pepper people, the Hello magazine and all their rivals that publish pornographic material will be closed and their editors will be prosecuted, liable to imprisonment for seven years, if they don’t modify their content to be in line with the anti-pornography bill,” Fr Simon Lokodo, Uganda’s ethics and integrity minister, has said.

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