Freedom of Expression and Association

The
right
to
freedom
of
expression
is
guaranteed
in
very
similar
terms
by
both
 Article
19
of
the
Universal
Declaration
on
Human
Rights(UDHR),1
a
UN
General
 Assembly
 resolution,
 and
 Article
 19(2)
 of
 International
 Covenant
 on
 Civil
 and
 Political
Rights
(ICCPR),2
a
formally
binding
legal
treaty
ratified
by
165
States.3
The
 latter
states:
 


Everyone
shall
have
the
right
to
freedom
of
expression;
this
right
shall
include
freedom
 to
seek,
receive
and
impart
information
and
ideas
of
all
kinds,
regardless
of
frontiers,
 either
orally,
in
writing
or
in
print,
in
the
form
of
art
or
through
any
other
media
of

his
 choice.

The national constitution of Uganda has provisions under chapter four articles; 29 (1) (a) (b) (c) (d) and (e) of the constitution which provides for freedom of speech, expression. Whereas, the legislations in place were sufficient enough to guarantee freedom of expression and association, government of Uganda passed law that infringes on Articles 29(1) (a) (b) (c) (d) and (e) of the constitution which provides for freedom of speech, expression. The Act does not also comply with the regional and international treaties to which the country is a member.

Government of Uganda through the enactment of the Public Order Management Act (POM Act), has dealt exercising the right to freedom of expression and association a big blow.  The shrinking spaces for citizens to exercise their right to freely express and themselves has greatly affected citizens’ participation in government programs and attempts to hold public offices accountable.

The Act prohibits public meetings at and around public places by designing them as “restricted areas”, where entry is prohibited with punishment of two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of 960,000 Uganda shillings or both (Article 13(3). It is also worrying that wide-ranging and discretionary powers are given to the law enforcement authorities to disperse spontaneous assemblies under certain vaguely defined circumstances (Article 7(2)) and public meetings “in order to prevent violence, restore order, and preserve the peace” (Article 9(2)(f).

The POM Act will lead to a further deterioration of the civic space in Uganda, and may hamper civil society actions that involve discussions related to governance and accountability, rule of law and more generally human rights, or anything within the spectrum of “public interest” will only be held provided police permission and supervision is granted.

 

Other than the current legislation, many Uganda activists who use the media have been targeted from time to time for the view and ideas the share with the public. As a consequence, media freedoms have been clamped down, public spaces where citizens can air their programs narrowed down and in many cases media censorship.
Why Freedom of Expression is relevant

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. It also underpins most other rights and allows them to flourish. The right to speak your mind freely on important issues in society, access information and hold the powers that be to account, plays a vital role in the healthy development process of any society

The lack of access to freedom of expression is a problem that particularly affects the already marginalised

If citizens are unable to communicate their ideas, views, worries and needs effectively, means they are often excluded from meaningful participation in society, and from the opportunity to better their own circumstances. In other words, discrimination is one of the core elements of unequal access to freedom of expression.

Access to free expression is also vital both to support the development process and as a development goal in its own right.

Amartya Sen cited freedom of expression as both the primary end and the principal means of development in his book— Development as Freedom.

TLC is committed to supporting communities effectively utilize the available spaces effectively exercise its right to freedom of expression and association. TLC is also running a public campaign to lobby government bodies to influence and push for the repealing of Public        Order Management Act.

 

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