Nairobi, May 12, 2016 – Ugandan authorities should immediately restore access to social media websites and refrain from censoring any websites in the future, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Regulators blocked access to Twitter and Facebook, and to the messaging service WhatsApp today, according to press reports.
Godfrey Mutabazi, executive director of the Uganda Communications Commission, told Reuters that security agencies had requested the move as “a measure to limit the possibility of terrorists’ taking advantage” of the presence of foreign leaders in the country for President Yoweri Museveni’s inauguration for a fifth term as president today.
It was the second time in three months that Ugandan regulators plunged the country into a state-enforced social-media blackout. The government blocked access to social media websites during the February 18 elections, CPJ reported at the time.
“The government’s citing fears of terrorism as a pretext for blocking social media is a threadbare argument that will convince no one,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. “Social media platforms are a vital form of news dissemination. The authorities know this. That’s why they are censoring them yet again.”
CPJ has tracked the shrinking space for free expression in Uganda, particularly following February’s elections. Ugandan Minister of Information Jim Muhwezi on May 5 warned that news outlet that reports on opposition protests risks being shut down.
Uganda’s opposition Forum for Democratic Change, citing local and international observers, alleges that the elections were marked by irregularities and should be held again, according to press reports.