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NGOs in Ukraine call to dismiss the intelligence services’ plan to install any kind of surveillance equipment

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NGOs call to dismiss the intelligence services’ plan to install any kind of surveillance equipment at the facilities of Internet providers, as they believe it will cause excessive control and intervention into the operation of the Internet by law enforcement and control agencies of the government.

On February 20, 2018, the National Commission for regulation of spheres of communication and IT approved the draft Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers, which is supposed to regulate technical monitoring of blocking of the websites from the sanction list. The draft provides for “securing the purchase of equipment… to monitor the status of termination of services of access to information resources…” and the State Service of Special Communications, in cooperation with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), is expected “to install the said equipment at telecommunication networks”.

The equipment, which is declared to be installed to monitor whether Internet providers actually limit access to websites from the sanctions list based on Presidential Decree No.133/2017, can be illegally and uncontrollably used for unsanctioned surveillance over the actions of citizens online, for manipulation over access to information on the Internet (limitations, blocking, or making changes in the content), and for other violations of human rights. In addition, the monitoring agencies never published description of the specifications of such equipment, and this opens way for even more potential abuse.

Decisions like this create preconditions for implementing Russian repressive practices of mass Internet control and surveillance over citizens, and endanger freedom and free development of the Internet in Ukraine.

In modern world, limitation of access to websites is not an effective solution technology-wise. Still, we understand the necessity to seek solutions by both the authorities and civil society to counteract the external threats.

We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, demand to recall the draft Decree, and to proceed within the limits of the governmental agency’s powers, in compliance with the international and national legislation regarding protection of human rights.

According to Article 32 of the Constitution of Ukraine, no one must be subjected to intervention to his or her personal and family life, except for the cases stipulated by the Constitution of Ukraine. Article 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine guarantees that the right to freedom of opinion and speech, to free expression of one’s opinions and beliefs, and freedom to collect and disseminate information can be limited only in cases stipulated by the law, and only for a legitimate reason. Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms adds that such limitations can be implemented only if they are necessary in a democratic society. Installation of equipment for general surveillance and/or interception of information on the Internet is in direct contradiction to Recommendation CM/Rec(2014)6 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, according to which “the very existence of legislation permitting surveillance of telecommunications may be considered as an interference with the right to private life” (Article 82).

The Internet Association of Ukraine also pointed out some terminological and legislative inconsistencies in the draft Decree in question.

NGOs:

Digital Security Lab Ukraine
Human Rights Platform
Digital Defenders Partners
Human Rights Information Centre
National Union of Journalists of Ukraine
Donetsk Institute of Information
Donbas Public TV
Institute of Mass Information
Academy of Ukrainian Press
Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law
Regional Press Development Institute
Internews Ukraine
Detector media
Center for Civil Liberties

Technology

Google Internet project closes in Uganda.

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Uganda will be among the 10 African countries that will lose out as Google winds up its Internet Balloon Project. 

The closure follows an announcement in which Google said the project was “an unsustainable business model”.

In 2019, Loon LLC, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, signed a Letter of Agreement in Kampala with officials from Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, in which high altitude solar powered Internet balloons with floating masts over Uganda’s airspace, would be established at an altitude of 500,000 feet.

The balloons would create an aerial wireless network to provide Internet and telecom network connectivity to rural and remote areas.

Dr Anna Prouse, the Loon LLC head of government relations, had said then that Google would partner with telecoms to tap into their technology to allow connectivity.

However, Alastair Westgarth, the team lead of the project, last week announced in a statement the project would be closed.

“We talk a lot about connecting the next billion users, but the reality is Loon has been chasing the hardest problem of all in connectivity – the last billion users: The communities in areas are too difficult or remote to reach, or the areas where delivering service with existing technologies is just too expensive for everyday people,” he said.

While Loon had found a number of willing partners along the way, he said, they had not found a way to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business.

“Developing radical new technology is inherently risky. I am sad to share that Loon will be winding down,” he said.

Loon had had similar arrangements in Botswana, Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles, DR Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Mozambique and Kenya, but are expected to close as well.

The Loon project was expected to be a game changer in Uganda’s telecomm sector through enhancing connectivity in remote areas, and contributing to the development of the national backbone infrastructure project.

The demand for Internet among Ugandans has grown exponentially in the recent past with Covid-19 being a serious catalyst.

Internet status  

A UCC report published recently indicated telecom and Internet service providers registered an increase in demand for data in the third quarter of 2020 with more than 20 million subscriptions – nearly 50 per cent of the population being connected.

The growth was mainly attributed to the shifting work culture driven by Covid-19, which led many businesses to adopt remote working methods.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

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Human Rights Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo is out on bail…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kampala – Uganda Human Rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo has been granted bail pending trial in regard to accusations of money laundering.

Justice Jane Okuo of the Anti-corruption Court has on December, 30th, 2020 ordered for the release of Mr. Opiyo on bail but ordered him to deposit cash of Shs15m in the bank.

The court also ordered Mr. Opiyo to deposit his passport in court to restrict his movements out of the country and each of the four sureties were bonded at Shs100m, not cash.

Justice Okuo ruled that Mr. Opiyo has a legal right to bail based on the presumption of innocence.

His lawyers, David Mpanga, Robert Mackay, and Elison Karuhanga argued that Mr. Opiyo is a lawyer in courts of law, a human rights international award winner with substantial sureties.

They said that Mr. Opiyo knows his obligations to bail.

Mr. Opiyo appeared before the High Court judge by way of a video conference at Buganda Road, hardly a week after a lower court remanded him until January 11, next year.

Mr. Opiyo, the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda was arrested last week from a city restaurant and detained at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka. He was charged with money laundering, a charge that can only be heard by the High Court judge.

Mr. Opiyo was abducted alongside two members of Witness Radio – Uganda legal team Esomu Simon Peter Obure and Anthony Odur. Others were Herbert Dakasi and Hamid Tenywa who were later granted a police bond on December, 24th, 2020.

The prosecution alleges that Mr. Opiyo on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City Branch, in Kampala District acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2 billion) through ABSA Bank account No.6004078045 in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing at the time of receipt that the said funds were proceeds of crime.

Opiyo is the lawyer representing two NGOs including the Uganda National NGO Forum and Uganda Women’s Network whose accounts were recently frozen by the Financial Intelligence Authority over alleged involvement in moving money to finance terrorism activities.

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Environment

Human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo denied bail, remanded again…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Buganda Road court on Monday remanded human rights lawyer Mr. Nicholas Opiyo to Kitalya prison till January 11, 2021.
Opiyo was arrested last week on Tuesday and detained at Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka. He was charged with money laundering.
Mr. Opiyo on Monday appeared before Buganda Road Chief Magistrates court through video conferencing where the case was read to him.

The Chief Magistrate, Mr. Moses Mabende however denied him bail arguing that he has no jurisdiction to hear his case.

The magistrate said the charges against Opiyo who is the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, can only be heard by the High Court.

He sent him back to Kitalya prison till January 11, 2021, to come for mentioning of the case.

“The accused can apply for bail in the High Court on Wednesday because the case is before Justice Jane Kajuba at the anti-corruption high court,” the Magistrate said.

The other four suspects, who included lawyers Herbert Dakasi, Esomu Obure, Anthony Odur, and Human Rights officer, Hamid Tenywa were given police bonds last Thursday.

The prosecution alleges that Mr. Opiyo on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City Branch, in Kampala District acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2 billion) through ABSA Bank account No.6004078045 in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing at the time of receipt that the said funds were proceeds of crime.

Opiyo is the lawyer representing two NGOs including the Uganda National NGO Forum and the Uganda Women’s Network whose accounts were recently frozen by the Financial Intelligence Authority over alleged involvement in moving money to finance terrorism activities.

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