Troubles Plague Uganda's Presidential Election
Following growing concerns about the credibility of Uganda’s presidential election on February 18, Freedom House issued the following statements:
"The Uganda Communication Commission's decision to block Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp on election day is a blatant violation of Ugandans' right to communicate freely," said Mai Truong, program manager of the Freedom on the Net report.
"Blocking social media, coupled with the delayed or non-arrival of polling materials, the postponement of voting in some districts to February 19, increased military presence, and the detention of opposition candidate Kizza Besigye undermine the chances of this being a free and fair election," said Vukasin Petrovic, director for Africa programs. “We urge the Government of Uganda to respect the rights of Ugandans to freely exchange views and participate in the electoral process.”
As voters headed to the polls on February 18, Ugandans experienced difficulties accessing social media sites and money services from their mobile devices. Telecommunications provider MTN Uganda confirmed that the government had directed operators to block social media platforms, citing "security reasons," though some users were able to bypass the blocks with circumvention tools, such as virtual private networks. The government last directed providers to block access to social media in 2011 in response to the "Walk to Work" protests.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.