The Uganda Government’s attempt to reassure citizens that its plans to monitor social media users were not intended to curb internet rights has failed to assuage fears that authorities are clamping down on free expression of the burgeoning Uganda online community.
For one, observers say Uganda has a bad record as far as respecting citizens’ right to free expression is concerned. And this record seems to be getting worse. Secondly, the country has precedents in recent years, when the government ordered clampdowns on the citizens’ right to seek, receive, and impart information through digital technologies.
On May 30, Security Minister Muruli Musaka announced that the government would form a Social Media Monitoring Centre to “to weed out those who use it to damage the government and people’s reputations.” He accused some social media users of being “bent to cause a security threat to the nation.”
The minister made the announcement as security forces were ending a 10-day cordon of the country’s two main independent English dailies. While purportedly looking for a dossier written by the coordinator of security services, excerpts of which The Monitor and Red Pepper newspapers had published, security agencies closed the two newspapers and two radio stations run by The Monitor, for 10 days. The media houses were only reopened after signing commitments to be “responsible” in future reporting on issues related to “national security”.
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