Museveni wins Twitter case

Friday May 22 2020

Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni.

Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni. PHOTO | PPU 

DAILY MONITOR
By DAILY MONITOR
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Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was right to block one of his Twitter followers on his private Twitter handle, the High Court in Kampala has ruled.

The pronouncement of the court arose from a law suit filed by a Ugandan living abroad, Mr Hillary Innocent Taylor Seguya.

Mr Seguya had argued that President Museveni, Ofwono Opondo, the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, and Assistant Inspector General of Police Asan Kasingye, unjustly blocked him from following them on their respective Twitter handles.

But justice Andrew Bashaija on Wednesday, ruled that Mr Museveni while using his private Twitter handle, @KagutaMuseveni, is at liberty to choose who follows him and whom to block.

“Being private twitter handles, therefore, the respective persons (President Museveni, Mr Ofwono and AIGP Kasingye), have the latitude to choose whom to allow or block in those handles,” Justice Bashaija ruled.

“Equally, there is nothing illegal or which precludes a public official from using his private Twitter handle to communicate or comment on a private matter or an issue of public concern. That would not in itself transform a private Twitter handle into public,” the judge further ruled.

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The petitioner claimed that the named officials use these private Twitter handle accounts to disseminate information relating to the activities of their public offices and to get feedback from citizens.

He added that by them deciding to block him, it was improper since they were the only channels of communication he was relying on to get information of governance about his country of origin.

“The President is a public officer and a holder of a Twitter social media platform handle @KagutaMuseveni and there is no other official handle for his office. He opened the Twitter handle when he was holding the office of the President and he has since been using it in his official and not in private capacity,” Mr Seguya stated in his law suit.

He accused President Museveni of having blocked him on July 30, 2019, Mr Ofwono on August 8, 2019 and AIGP Kasingye on July 20, 2019.

But while determining this matter, the judge dismissed the US case in which the Court of Appeal upheld the decision that President Donald Trump violated the rights of some concerned citizens when he blocked the responses of those he didn’t like on his Twitter handle.

The Trump accusers had argued that the Twitter handle he was using was opened when he became the US President and used it for official communication hence had the right to follow him.

But Justice Bashaija held that the US case cited was not relevant to the instant case before since Uganda does not follow the US law but the common law of its colonial masters, the Great Britain.

Justice Bashaija also held that the case before him was that while the named persons were public officials, they are not public bodies hence the Twitter handles they hold, are held in private and individual capacity.

He ordered Mr Seguya to meet the legal costs that the Attorney General, who had been listed as the respondent, used to successfully defend the matter on behalf of President Museveni and the two other government officials.

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