"Disappointing" social media ban now lifted

The social media ban hampered safeguarding freedom of the press, expression, association and freedom of access to information.

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Uganda has now lifted the ban on social media use while the country voted, but citizens are still disappointed it happened in the first place, a Ugandan journalist says.

In an interview with Pulse News,  Kampala based  journalist and communications practitioner, Bernadette Ndema Omondi said people in Uganda are feeling either calm or  anxious while the votes are counted.

Currently, the incumbent president, Yoweri Museveni is leading with 62.82% and the major opposition contender, Dr. Kizza Besigye at 32.72%.

She said the controversial social media ban, of which there was no prior warning it would happen, was lifted on Friday afternoon. Museveni  had said the clampdown was in a bid to safeguard national security, while some people got around it, a large number of citizens adhered to the ban, Omondi said.

She woke on Thursday morning to find both she and her husband couldn’t access their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“We quickly searched Google and found a report confirming that the Uganda Communications Commission had  shut down Twitter, Whatsapp, Mobile Money and Facebook due to issues concerning national security.”

She was “terribly disappointed” with the authorities over this move because it hampered safeguarding freedom of the press, expression, association and freedom of access to information.

“Many people here are equally disappointed in that move.”

Omondi said there has been general peace during the voting, although tear gas was used to disperse Besigye’s supporters yesterday and today when he was arrested together with other officials over trying to hold a press conference and was forcefully trying to access Police premises.

“There have been pockets of violence from some Besigye supporters who tried to burn a vehicle and tyres. There is heavy deployment of the military and Police on the streets,” she said.

She expected the Museveni to be announced president, a post he has held for 30 years.

She doubted some of the candidates will concede defeat, “especially Besigye who, yesterday, said that the elections are not fair. My bet is that this might lead to some protests.”

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