The Uganda Communications Commission Tuesday issued an order banning more than 100 social media platforms and messaging apps until further notice by the communications regulator. The order appears to have been a pushback against Facebook for deleting pro-government accounts that were manipulating public debate in connection with the country’s presidential elections held Thursday.
Internet providers received a notice on Monday stating:
“Uganda Communications Commission hereby directs you to immediately suspend any access and use, direct or otherwise, of all social media platforms and online messaging applications over your network until further notice.”
Users are unable to access or use popular forums such as Facebook and Whatsapp that have played a great role in campaigning and information dissemination by all sides of the election. Although the ban is believed to be in retaliation against Facebook, services such as Twitter, Viber and Signal have also been banned.
The move has been criticised by Amnesty International for restricting people’s right freedom of expression and access to information. The human rights group expressed concern over the political environment of high-ranking government officials using violence and threats to crackdown upon political opposition, journalists and human rights activists.
“The move is clearly intended to silence the few accredited election observers, opposition politicians, human rights defenders, activists, journalists and bloggers who are monitoring the elections.”
The organisation has asked Ugandan authorities to immediately uplift the ban and end political oppression before the presidential election.
Uganda has often imposed social media shutdowns to dampen dissent during elections. In 2011, the authorities temporarily blocked access to Facebook and Twitter for 24 hours and in 2016, the authorities blocked all social media platforms for four days in February and one day in March.
The present ban has continued for three days as the election now enters the vote-counting stage. Opposition leader Bobi Wine is confident of defeating the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni and has rejected early results indicating Museveni’s lead.