Uganda ‘Shut Down’ Social media and Online Messaging Platforms ahead of Election

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Uganda’s communications regulator has reportedly ordered internet service providers to immediately shut down social media and online messaging platforms ahead of the country’s presidential election.

This move came two days before the country’s presidential election, which will see one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, Yoweri Museveni, against opposition frontrunner and popular singer Bobi Wine.

In a letter seen by news agencies on Tuesday, January 12, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Executive Director, Irene Sewankambo, ordered telecommunications companies to “immediately suspend any access and use” of social media and online messaging platforms.

An industry insider who spoke to AFP news agency on condition of anonymity said the order was first communicated in “nasty and aggressive” phone calls to the telecommunications companies on Tuesday morning.

The order was retaliation for Facebook deleting pro-government accounts for seeking to manipulate public debate before Thursday’s key polls, the insider disclosed.

The list of banned social media sites includes; Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Signal, and Viber. Some of these were already offline on Tuesday, the source added.

According to the insider, on Monday, a list of over 100 virtual private networks was distributed to internet service providers by the UCC with orders to block them.

UCC spokesman Ibrahim Bbosa debunked the claim by stating to AFP: “I am not aware of a directive to switch off internet or social media platforms. There has been slow connectivity on the platforms which can be partly due to heavy traffic as a result of the forthcoming elections” he said.

This comes a day after a number of Ugandan government officials and ruling party members had their Facebook accounts shut down over accusations they are seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of elections.