GERALDINE NABABIITTO: 36 years of Liberation; Social Media as a force for good

Before the advent of Social Media, we had Newspapers, Magazines, and analog broadcasts via first radio (AM and FM) and then Television. These forms of media are broadly classified as “Traditional Media.” In typical traditional African society, traditional media also included the use of Drums.

Technological advances in deployment of the Wide World Web from a military application to a universal one in the 1980s AS well as the introduction of Personal Computers (PCs) running the revolutionary Windows95 changed the Media Landscape.

In particular Microsoft’s launch of the pioneer Myspace social media platform on August 1 2003 AND the subsequent quantum leap in Mobile telephony capacity dramatically altered the Media Space.
Today we are in what some have termed as the “gig economy”. We live in a time where so-called “handheld devices” are the major source of information sharing.

These devices seamlessly connect to our televisions sets, washing machines as well as refrigerators. These devices now connect with “wearables” – smart watches and smart glasses which aside from being fashionable aesthetics, help monitor our heart beats, number of calories burnt during a workout etc.

The convenience afforded us by Social Media and advances in technology such as handhelds and wearables is sometimes abused by some young Ugandans.
In some instances young girls and boys have used platforms such as Facebook to engage in lewd acts. Others have engaged in the shameful habit of insulting our senior political and religious leaders. Others are engaged in fraudulent acts.

To weed Social Media of fraudsters and hecklers, often working to undermine government social media communications as well as costing our economy millions of shillings, Ministry of ICT&NG continues to promote understanding of the “Access to Information Act” as well as to educate the citizenry on what the “Misuse of Information” Act entails.

Article 43 of our Constitution underlines some limitations on rights and freedoms, including freedom of speech and expression. Section 1 reads: “In the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms prescribed in this chapter, no person shall prejudice the fundamental or other human rights and freedoms of others or public interest.”

Understanding these Acts is critical. The rising tide of inflammatory and disparaging language used against the Commander in chief (CiC), the Commander of Land Forces and sadder still, against the necessary actions of our Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces and Forces armées de la république démocratique du Congo (FARDC) against the terror outfit of Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a measure of extent of betrayal of our country.

It’s not uncommon to find members of the political opposition using abusive language in reference to military and civil leaders such as Lt. Gen. Muhozi Kainerugaba. Granted, we might agree that some of his supporters at times display “excitement” in their praise of him – declaring him the greatest general of our time! But this is no excuse for the likes of Mr. Kakwenza and the once Honorable Kyagulanyi to take to social media and engage in an orgy of insults against his person.

As David Stern noted in his work aptly titled The Twitter War: Social Media’s Role in Ukraine Unrest – “War and Civil conflict have always been a fertile breeding ground for untruths – facts are bent, slanted, and created out of whole cloth. Think of the commonly held belief during world War 1 that Germans bayoneted Belgian babies. Such urban myths spring up and influence not only public opinion but sometimes the trajectory of the violence as well.”

I say Social media can be a point of good in our societies. We should realise the hidden power of social media to transform societies, individuals and yes, even government policies. Social media platforms can help spread peace, encourage dialogue among people from different religious backgrounds and nationalities. It can change attitudes, promote tolerance and mutual understanding.

Our constitution empowers the president to preserve and protect our territorial integrity. ADF operates from bases in Eastern DRC where they have killed at least 1000 civilians since 2020. ADF killed Gen.Katumba’s daughter as well as nearly 15 other Ugandans in Kampala last year.

These acts were the sticks that were used to sound the war drums. As we celebrate our 36th Liberation day, let us all in our citizen duty reject the misuse of Social Media by the Kakwenza’s of this world.

The writer works with the Ministry of ICT&NG.

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