Uganda shut down all social media in the country Tuesday after the country’s longtime leader accused Facebook of taking sides in the upcoming presidential election on Thursday.
President Yoweri Museveni, 76, apologized for the inconvenience caused by the ban, but said Uganda had no choice after Facebook removed several accounts tied to his reelection campaign.
“If you want to take sides against the (ruling party), then that group will not operate in Uganda,” he said in a national address.
“We cannot tolerate this arrogance of anybody coming to decide for us who is good and who is bad.”
Facebook on Monday said it had taken down a network of accounts linked to Uganda’s ministry of information that “used fake and duplicate accounts to manage pages, comment on other people’s content, impersonate users, re-share posts in groups to make them appear more popular than they were.”
The social networking giant didn’t immediately respond to the president’s comments on Tuesday but Twitter, which also appeared to be affected ban, blasted the move.
“We strongly condemn internet shutdowns – they are hugely harmful, violate basic human rights and the principles of the #OpenInternet,” it said in a statement.
“Access to information and freedom of expression, including the public conversation on Twitter, is never more important than during democratic processes, particularly elections.”
Many social media users were outraged by Twitter’s comments, noting that the company — which recently permanently suspended President Trump’s account — had muzzled The New York Post during the 2020 race over its reporting on Hunter Biden.
“What an amazing level of hypocrisy!!!” one person wrote.
“Stunning tweet. During the run-up to the election in this country Twitter shut off the NY Post because it disagreed with its news reporting,” another user commented.
Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, is facing a challenge from popular singer and opposition lawmaker Bobi Wine, who has attracted a large following among the nation’s youth.
Wine, 38, has been using Facebook for live coverage of his campaigns and news conferences, saying that many media outlets — most of which are owned by government allies or are state-run — had refused to host him.
The International Press Institute, a global media watchdog, called on Uganda to reinstate social media networks.
“Any efforts to block online access to journalists or members of the public are unacceptable breaches of the right to information,” it said in a statement.
With Post wires
Uganda bans all social media ahead of election, sparking outrage The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ New York Post.