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Uganda ‘shut down’ social media ahead of election

Internet service providers have been reportedly ordered by Uganda’s communications regulator to immediately shut down social media and messaging services ahead of the country’s presidential election.

This is coming two days before the country’s presidential election which will see one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, Yoweri Museveni, against opposition frontrunner and popular singer Bobi Wine.

In a letter seen by news agencies on Tuesday, January 12, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Executive Director Irene Sewankambo ordered telecommunications companies to “immediately suspend any access and use” of social media and online messaging platforms.

An industry insider who spoke to AFP news agency on condition of anonymity said the order was first communicated in “nasty and aggressive” phone calls to the telecommunications companies on Tuesday morning.

The order was retaliation for Facebook deleting pro-government accounts for seeking to manipulate public debate before Thursday’s key polls, the insider said

The list of banned social media sites includes Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Signal, and Viber. Some of these were already offline on Tuesday, the source added.

On Monday, a list of over 100 virtual private networks was distributed to internet service providers by the UCC with orders to block them, according to the insider.

UCC spokesman Ibrahim Bbosa told AFP: “I am not aware of a directive to switch off internet or social media platforms.”

“There has been slow connectivity on the platforms which can be partly due to heavy traffic as a result of the forthcoming elections” he said.

This comes a day after a number of Ugandan government officials and ruling party members had their Facebook accounts shut down over accusations they are seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of elections.

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