By David Serumaga
With the new development in technologies in Uganda and the world at large, communication and access to information have improved, but it has left our traditional media with scars and permanent damages which needs to be handled immediately for communication to remain meaningful.
With the coming of new media, which includes social and digital media, we are experiencing much false information which the American President Donald Trump referred to as fake news taking over Uganda’s digital and social media.
Of recent, stories started circulating on social media and online news platforms announcing the death of the former Electoral Commission Chairman, Eng. Badru Kiggundu. Not only that but a few days ago, fake news was spreading on social media announcing the death of the current President of Uganda Journalists Association, Hajji Bashil Kazibwe Mbaziira but thank God that within minutes, the story was proved wrong.
In such incidence where bloggers and news websites decide to declare people dead when they are still alive does not only go against news values and ethics but also causes anxiety, uncalled-for diseases like pressure and misleading the readers, views and listeners.
On the national security and stability, such information if not managed now, can mislead people or affect our neighbours. We have people like Tom Voltaire Okwalinga (TVO) who publish disastrous information against the state. In 2015, we saw how the one in the names of Charles Rwomushana, who used his Facebook account and announced that the now living and energetic Christopher Aine was dead.
We have had many cases where fake stories are spread to kill the image of the country, organisations individuals and put our people and security on tension. I think this is the right time for the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) to use the existing new technologies to help Ugandan curb this continuous misleading and misinforming untruthful growing fake news sources.
As we draw near to the year of active politics, UCC must save the nation on fake news because it has consequences to the traditional media and the country at large because they consist of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes spread via media which misleads to damage an agency, nation and individuals. It also affects our traditional media by causing readers, listeners and viewers to run away from truthful and balanced stories and concentrate on fake news with catchy headlines hence making the public to believe in the wrong information
The Commission’s position on Fake News
The Commission is in accordance with sections 5(1)(b) and (k) of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 mandated to monitor, inspect, license, supervise, control and regulate all communications services and to promote and safeguard the interests of consumers and operators as regards to the quality of communication services in Uganda.
The Commission has observed an increase in the incidences of fake publications, especially on digital platforms, where unscrupulous members of the public misuse computer systems to create, publish and distribute unverified, misleading and fake stories and/or reports regarding a range of events happening in our society. The stories/reports are sometimes distorted to appear to be originating from legitimate sources whereas not.
The general public is advised to be vigilant and to exercise due care by verifying the authenticity of any news stories /reports from official sources before believing and acting on them.
The Commission further warns whoever is in the habit of deliberately creating, publishing and distributing fake news stories to desist from such acts of computer misuse to avoid the risk of possible prosecution in accordance with the Computer Misuse Act 2011 and other penal laws of Uganda.
The article was first published in New Vision and Uganda Communications Commission website.