This week the US government has protested the Uganda government’s alleged attempts to block communication on social media networks and live broadcast of the ‘walk-to-work’ protests.
The Deputy State Department Spokesman, Mr Mark Toner said in the statement that the US government was also concerned about the loss of life and continued arrest of opposition leaders by the security forces during the protests.
This follows several directives from the Uganda Communications Commission, the communications regulator, to several Internet service providers instructing them to block Face-book and Twitter networks for 24 hours during the protests that left five people dead.
The same body has also approached broadcasting houses and advised them to avoid live coverage of the ‘walk to work’ demonstrations against high fuel and other commodity prices. These actions deserve outright condemnation by all people of goodwill. Since in a democracy people should not use armed means to demand for their legitimate rights, the only platform left for them to express themselves is through peaceful demonstrations and the media.
Freedom of expression, the media and peaceful assembly are fundamental human rights and critical components of a democratic society. The government should respect these rights as granted to the Ugandan people by our national constitution in order to make public officials accountable.
Gagging the media and free speech can only inflame the situation and drive the dissenting voices underground. This is a situation that should not be allowed to manifest especially after we have had largely peaceful general elections. The issues for which people have reallied to protest are real and need the urgent attention of the government .
The high cost of living is unbearable for the majority of Ugandans. People can hardly live within their means. And they have now come out in a spirited show of solidarity to demand for government’s urgent intervention. This is the best civil manner in which people can express themselves.
The government, therefore, should not block these un-confrontational means of communication left for the people to channel their grievances. Our national leaders should instead listen and address the critical issues affecting Ugandans. Only then shall the country have peace.
The writer is a Journalist and Advocate of the Hih Court of Uganda