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Uganda takes swipe at social media

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Uganda , 13 Jan 2021

Despite pressure from the public and civil rights groups, Uganda’s Communications Commission (UCC) has ordered all ISPs in the country to shut down social media and messaging applications.

This week over 54 organisations, under the auspices of the #KeepItOn campaign, wrote to Museveni urging him to ensure that mobile money and social media platforms remain open, secure and accessible throughout the country’s general elections.

The letter warned that deliberate disruption to digital communication platforms as well as mobile money transactions could result in ‘billions in losses’ per day as Uganda’s economy is increasingly becoming dependent on digital communication.

However, UCC executive director Irene Sewankambo ordered telecommunications companies to “immediately suspend any access and use” of social media and online messaging platforms.

On 12 January 2021 President Yoweri Museveni confirmed during a national address that his government had shut down social media ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for tomorrow (14 January 2021).

Museveni accused Facebook and unnamed outside groups of “arrogance” after the social media network removed accounts linked to Museveni’s re-election campaign.

He added that the government’s action was unfortunate but unavoidable.

“There is no way anybody can come to Uganda and play with our country to decide who is good and bad. I cannot tolerate this arrogance.”

“That social media channel (Facebook), if it is going to operate in Uganda, it should be used equitably by everybody who wants to use it. I’m sure the government has blocked social media networks and I apologise to Ugandans for the inconvenience. If you want to take sides against the ruling party, then that group will not operate in Uganda,” said Museveni.

Users in Uganda reportedly cannot access Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Skype, Google Play and Viber among others.

Network data from digital rights organisation NetBlocks Internet Observatory has also confirmed widespread restrictions to social media and online communications platforms on major internet providers in the country including MTN and Bharti Airtel.

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