AFIC condemns Ugandan Authorities for blocking social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and also mobile network services of sending and receiving money which lasted for three days during the recent presidential and parliamentary elections.
This move restricted access to social media as voters went voters went to the polls on the 18th of February 2016 to elect presidential and parliamentary candidates. The ban started on Thursday morning 8:00am till Sunday evening 9:15pm local time.
According to press reports, the Uganda Communications Commission cited an unspecified threat to national security to justify the act as explained by the UCC, Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi.
The Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN), a leading provider of mobile-phone service in the country, said on Twitter that the commission had ordered it to disable all social media and mobile money-transferring services “due to a threat to public order and safety.”
AFIC is disappointed in the government’s decision to block access to social media on mobile phones on Election Day. Blocking access to the different platforms is a blatant violation of Ugandans’ fundamental rights to freedom of expression and to seek and receive information without clearly defined security concerns.
These sentiments were reiterated by Henry Maina, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa who explained that “Blanket bans on social media cannot be justified under international law and are wholly disproportionate.”
In 2011 general election, a similar shutdown occurred on almost all internet services and platform.
However, in the recent election citizens disappointed by the move resorted to VPN (Virtual Private Network) and Psiphon options to solve the difficulties to access social media platforms on their mobiles.
European Union Election Observer Mission in its preliminary report on the polls criticized the move to block Ugandans from accessing social media at the start of the polls.
On shutting social media, President Museveni says that was a security means to get rid of anarchy.
“We can’t have anyone promote chaos using social media. You should know that the state can even do more. I know some people use satellite phones but those can also be controlled” he said.