The Ugandan government is restoring social media sites with the exception of Facebook
The Ugandan authorities restored internet access on Wednesday, a month after the lockdown before the January 14 elections. The government said the disruption was necessary for security reasons, while critics say it should cut communications between President Yoweri Museveni’s opponents.
“Internet and social media services have been fully restored,” tweeted Ugandan Information and Communication Technology Minister Peter Ogwang on Wednesday, adding: “We apologize for the inconvenience, but it was for the security of our country.”
Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the shutdown was a method of war against elements that threaten the credibility of the elections.
With these threats largely neutralized, the government has re-established access to social media websites, with the exception of Facebook.
“We have published elements of social media – Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp – because we think they are not as deadly as Facebook,” said Opondo. “So in the future we will investigate their stance on these other social media platforms that have been released. And that will inform about how quickly Facebook will be restored.”
Ahead of the January 14 elections, Museveni ordered Facebook banned after it was reported that the company had closed 220 accounts linked to the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.
Facebook said the accounts were fakes or duplicates that were used to popularize posts by Museveni and his son, Lieutenant General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, than they were.
Some posts from the accounts also targeted the opposition National Unity Platform and its presidential candidate Bobi Wine.
National Unity Platform Party spokesman Joel Senyonyi said Facebook was right to close the accounts.
“The government continues to have a grip on social media because it wants to control freedom of expression,” he said. “Because they know that Ugandans pretty much use social media as an opportunity to express themselves freely. And that’s why Facebook conducted its investigation because a lot of propaganda was being spread from these government-run social media accounts.”
Michael Niyitegeka, an IT professional, says shutting down Facebook is affecting the livelihood of many Ugandans because they rely on the social media site for marketing.
“Because they don’t have the resources to get on the radio, they don’t have the resources to go on TV. So their business depends largely on the Facebook market,” he said.
Dorothy Mukasa, CEO of Unwanted Witness, a digital rights organization, calls on lawmakers to set rules for Internet access.
“What we, as Ugandans, should do is keep the government accountable,” she said. “Do you know why they switched off the internet? And also ask institutions like parliament or the judiciary to draw up guidelines. Because this will happen over and over again. Can we have guidelines or even a law that really stipulates when should.” the internet be interrupted? “
Meanwhile, Ugandans continued to use virtual private networks to access Facebook without paying a social media tax introduced by the government in July 2018.