A simple guide on freedom of expression and media law for content creators in Uganda

Freedom of expression and open dialogue are essential in the dynamic world of content creation. This fundamental right, enshrined in Uganda’s Constitution, empowers individuals to share diverse perspectives and contribute to a thriving media ecosystem.

Independent content creators are increasingly at the forefront of societal discourse, bringing fresh voices and perspectives to the table. While the internet provides a platform for unfettered expression, Ugandan content creators must navigate the intricate balance between their right to free expression and the complexities of media laws and ethical considerations. This requires a good understanding of the legal landscape, coupled with a deep sense of responsibility and awareness of their work’s potential impact.

Gaining a comprehensive understanding of media laws and ethical principles can be an empowering tool for content creators. It allows them to:

  • Navigate the media landscape responsibly while safeguarding their right to free expression.
  • Produce responsible and trustworthy content while adhering to ethical principles and avoiding harmful or inciting content.
  • Consider legal liabilities, enabling informed decisions regarding content distribution, copyright usage and contractual agreements.

The foundation of freedom of expression in Uganda

The Constitution of Uganda enshrines the right to freedom of expression, which encompasses the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas. This right serves as the cornerstone of a democratic society, enabling individuals to engage in open debate, challenge authority and hold their government accountable. It is a fundamental pillar of a free and just society, fostering informed decision-making, promoting transparency, and empowering individuals to express their diverse perspectives.

While freedom of expression is a cornerstone of Ugandan society, it is not without its limitations. The right to express oneself does not extend to inciting violence, spreading hate speech or infringing upon the rights of others. This means that content creators must carefully consider the potential impact of their work and ensure that it does not cause harm or violate the laws of Uganda.

Key laws related to media and content creation in Uganda

Several laws in Uganda regulate the media landscape and the activities of content creators, providing a framework for responsible and ethical content creation. These laws include:

Uganda Penal Code Act, 1950: This Act contains provisions related to defamation, sedition and other offences that can affect content creators. It is crucial to understand the boundaries set by this law.

Uganda Communications Act, 2013: This legislation governs communication services, including broadcasting, postal services and electronic communications. It is relevant for digital content creators and media practitioners, as it addresses various aspects of communication technology and services.

Computer Misuse Act, 2011: This law addresses cybercrime, including offences related to online communication. Content creators should be aware of its provisions to avoid unintentional violations.

Data Protection and Privacy Act, 2019: This Act aims to protect the privacy of individuals and personal data by regulating the collection and processing of personal information. 

Access to Information Act, 2005: While not exclusively focused on media, this act promotes transparency and access to government information. Content creators can use it to request public records and hold authorities accountable.

Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, 2006: This Act provides for the protection of literary, scientific, and artistic intellectual works, as well as their neighbouring rights. It covers various aspects of copyright, including ownership, licensing, infringement, and exceptions.

Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, 2010: This governs the interception of communications, including electronic communications, primarily for security and law enforcement purposes. However, it also indirectly affects content creators who use communication channels. Content creators should be aware that their communications, including digital content, may be subject to interception under specific circumstances authorized by the Act.

The Press and Journalism Act, 1995: This law specifically protects the freedom of the press, outlining the rights and responsibilities of journalists and media organisations.

Legal considerations

As a content creator in Uganda, it is crucial to be aware of the legal implications of your work. Here are some key considerations:

  • Accuracy and verification: Maintaining the accuracy of your content is paramount. Always strive to verify information from credible sources and avoid spreading misinformation or misleading the public. Fact-checking and rigorous research are essential practices for upholding your integrity and ensuring the credibility of your work.
  • Defamation and libel: Exercise caution when making statements about individuals or organisations. Avoid publishing false or defamatory statements that could damage the reputation of others. Defamation, in Uganda, is not only a civil wrong that can result in legal liability but also a criminal offence. Content creators must be mindful of the potential legal consequences of their words, both civil and criminal.
  • Hate speech and incitement: Refrain from creating content that incites violence, hatred or discrimination against individuals or groups based on their race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Hate speech is detrimental to society, and content creators must uphold ethical standards by promoting tolerance and respect for diversity.
  • Copyright and intellectual property: Respect the intellectual property rights of others. Obtain necessary permissions before using copyrighted material, including images, music or videos. Plagiarism and unauthorised use of copyrighted material can lead to legal repercussions.

Protecting your rights as a content creator

While content creators have responsibilities to adhere to legal and ethical standards, they also possess rights that should be protected. Here are some steps you can take to safeguard your legal interests:

  1. Consulting a lawyer can provide valuable insights and guidance on the legal implications of your content creation. A lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of media law, review contracts and protect your rights in case of disputes.
  2. Carefully review and understand any contracts you enter into with media outlets, platforms or other parties that distribute your content. These contracts can impact your ownership rights, compensation and creative freedom.
  3. Document your creative process and maintain ownership of your original material, including sketches, drafts and final productions. This documentation can be crucial in establishing your authorship and protecting your rights in case of disputes or copyright infringement claims.
  4. Consider registering your copyrights with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB). Copyright registration provides a public record of your ownership and facilitates legal action in case of infringement.
  5. Familiarise yourself with the concept of fair use, which permits the limited use of copyrighted material without obtaining permission from the copyright owner. Fair use is generally allowed for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research.
  6. In Uganda, the right of publicity protects individuals against the unauthorised commercial use of their name, image or likeness. Be aware of this right and avoid using someone’s name, image or likeness without their consent for commercial purposes.
  7. Consider utilising Alternative Dispute Resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration to resolve disputes with media outlets, platforms or other parties involved in distributing your content. This can provide a cost-effective and efficient alternative to litigation.
  8. Keep abreast of the latest developments in media law and intellectual property rights. Attend workshops, seminars or online courses to enhance your understanding of the legal landscape and protect your rights as a content creator.
ACME Mwalimu

The African Centre for Media Excellence's training unit, known as ACME Mwalimu, scours news platforms and online resources to curate the best training tips and resources for journalists and media organisations, empowering them to become impactful contributors to public debate and development. If you have a training tip or question, you can reach out to ACME Mwalimu at training[at]acme-ug.org.

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