Ugandan authorities have asked internet service providers to impede the use of social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp ahead of the general election in the country scheduled for January 14.
According to the independent cybersecurity monitor NetBlocks “Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Skype, Viber, Google Play Store, some Telegram servers and link shortening services among a lengthy list of pre-selected set of social websites [are] unavailable.” However, YouTube appeared to be working in the country earlier on Tuesday.
The ban comes as a result of an order from the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) that asked for blocks until further notice. Earlier in the week, the Ugandan government had expressed its dissatisfaction with social media giant Facebook which had blocked certain accounts and content belonging to officials affiliated to the government of Yoweri Museveni.
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It is not clear if the ban ordered on Tuesday is in any way connected to the disagreement with Facebook.
The months leading up to the polls have been marred by the violence unleashed on members of the media as well as those on the campaign trail with Museveni’s main challenger, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.
At the end of last year, Ssentamu, popularly known as Bobi Wine, said one of his bodyguards was on Sunday run over and killed by a military police truck. The victim, Francis Senteza, was allegedly killed while helping to transport a journalist injured during a confrontation between the police and followers of Bobi Wine.
“I regret to announce the murder of my security team member Francis Senteza Kalibala aka Frank. He was deliberately ran over by military-police truck,” Bobi Wine wrote on Twitter.
Members of the Ugandan media fraternity also refused to cover the news and conferences of the country’s security services in protest of violence meted to journalists by the security services.
A reporter for one of the largest private media organizations in the country was quoted by Africanews saying: “We have resolved to stop covering security agencies and the Uganda Media Center, which is the center for journalists in Uganda. Reason: these guys are continuing to beat us, harass us in the name of telling us to be patriotic, which is a partisan move”.
Museveni, 76, is looking to overcome Wine 38, to continue his 34-year reign.