Uganda blocks social networks, used as information tools

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) regards Uganda’s blocking of social networks since yesterday, the eve of Yoweri Museveni’s swearing-in for a fifth term as president, as an unacceptable free speech restriction and calls on the authorities to restore what are essential information tools for the public.

Since yesterday afternoon, Ugandan citizens have been having difficulty in accessing Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, the three social networks routinely used by the country’s journalists to circulate news and information in real time.

The trouble began just 20 minutes after a video was posted online showing main opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who has always rejected the results of the February presidential election, “swearing himself in” as president.

The authorities said that social networks had been blocked for reasons linked to national security, without giving any further detail.

“Disconnecting social networks like this is an unacceptable violation of the freedom of information of Uganda’s citizens,” RSF said. “We call on the Ugandan authorities to terminate this act of censorship, which violates Ugandan and international legal norms.”

Kizza Besigye and his supporters were parading in Kampala, when the police started beating a female journalist of the Daily Monitor. Human Rights Network for Journalists in Uganda mentions in its press release of 12 May that another journalist of Channel 44 was injured by a rubber bullet in the leg and that two journalist of Salt FM and Delta TV were briefly arrested. The authorities already disconnected social networks during the 18 February election and recently ordered media outlets to stop covering opposition activities on pain of closure.

Uganda is ranked 102nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index, five places lower than in 2015, and the media freedom situation continues to deteriorate.

Published on
Updated on 12.05.2016