President Yoweri Museveni has defended a decision by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to switch off social media on mobile phones.
Today as Ugandans went to the polls for presidential and parliamentary elections, social media platforms such as WhatsAPP, Twitter and Facebook were switched off without notice, paralysing communication especially among the elite class.
UCC through its executive director Godfrey Mutabazi later said it had shut down access to social media sites and mobile money services due for security reasons. Mutabazi said the communications regulatory body received information from the Electoral Commission that Mobile Money and social media were being used to bribe voters. Mutabazi also said social media was being used for campaigns outside the stipulated campaign time which ended on Tuesday.
Amnesty International condemned UCC's decision to block social media on mobile phones, describing it as a blatant violation of Ugandans' fundamental rights to freedom of expression and to seek and receive information.
In a statement, Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes., notes that without clearly defined security concerns, this closure is nothing but an exercise in censorship as Ugandans elect their leaders.
But Museveni told the media in Kiruhura district shortly after casting his vote that switching off social media was the only way to prevent ruthless Ugandans from disrupting the election exercise.
Museveni said most Ugandans have abused social media to an extent of using it to incite violence.