In Uganda Media silenced from reporting on protests

Uganda has banned live media coverage of opposition protests against the re-election of President Yoweri Museveni.

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Uganda has banned live media coverage of opposition protests against the re-election of President Yoweri Museveni.

The opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has called for a "defiance campaign" against the 71-year-old leader extending his 30-year rule, the BBC reports.

Security forces have sealed off the home of its leader Kizza Besigye, who described February's vote as a "sham".

The government has told media organisations not to carry out live interviews with opposition members or show their activities in real time during their protests, if they do they will risk losing their broadcast licences.

Those who cover the event on social media would also be punished, the head of Uganda's Communications Commission said.

Last week, a court ruled that what the opposition is calling a "defiance campaign" against the election result was illegal, but the FDC has insisted on going ahead with its activities.

Mr Museveni's victory was upheld by the Supreme Court in March, and he is to be sworn in for a fifth term on 12 May.

Voices of America reports that Thursday was supposed to be a day of protest for the FDC officials and supporters who are demanding an independent audit of the results of the February presidential poll, however the heavy police presence kept people off the streets while opposition leader and presidential candidate, Kizza Besigye, remains under house arrest.

Robert Ssempala, the national coordinator with the Human Rights Networks for Journalists in Uganda, said this is a worrying sign.

“The profession is very clear about balancing our stories about giving a fair platform to those in power and those outside of power that have alternative views," he said.

"This is what the media is all about. So now you're de-toothing the media only to crusade for the government and government policies? That is not what the media is supposed to do.”

He said advocacy groups are considering challenging the media restrictions in court.

“We've seen journalists being arrested before even without this ban," he said. "So it's just going to be a continuation of a further crackdown. We certainly think they will devise any means to scare the media to intimidate the journalists and harass those who are strong willed.”

Last week, Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma banned all FDC activities for one month. These included the FDC's weekly prayers which on Tuesday were interrupted by police, who arrested several participants.

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