The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) is deeply concerned about the increasing disregard for freedom of expression rights both offline and online by Ugandan authorities.
On February 18, 2016, Ugandan Authorities blocked access to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp during the presidential polls for no justifiable reason. The social media platforms were blocked for 24 hours.
Just two days ago, May 11, 2016, a day to the swearing in of President Yoweri Museveni, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), once again blocked access to social media platforms (Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter) under the pretext of national security.
A message from the telephone service providers in the country to their subscribers quoted a directive from the communications regulator, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to switch off all the social media platforms till after the swearing in ceremony.
“Dear Customers, as per UCC directive, social media has been temporarily blocked; however all our other services are available. We regret any inconveniences caused,” Airtel Uganda wrote on their Facebook wall.
This is the second time in three months the government has censored social media platforms during national events.
This developing trend of the Ugandan authorities clamping down on social media during important national events is extremely disturbing and must be brought to an end as it contravenes Ugandans’ right to free speech and access to information as guaranteed by the country’s constitution.
The clamp down on May 12 is a serious breach of Ugandans’ rights to freedom of expression and a big step backward for a country that has had Access to Information law in its statutes since 2005.
AFEX calls on the Ugandan communication regulator, UCC to desist from the unjustifiable and unacceptable closure of social media platforms in the country.
Issued by the AFEX network in Accra, on May 13, 2016.
AFEX is a continental network of the most prominent African freedom of expression organisations spread across East, West, South and Central Africa who are also members of IFEX. The Media Foundation for West Africa, based in Accra, Ghana, serves as the Secretariat for the network.