The Ugandan government finally restored internet and social media services in the country following nearly a month of social media blockage.
According to a statement from the State Minister for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Peter Ogwang’, the government has also apologised for the inconveniences the blockade had caused while also stating the act as good of the country’s security. “Internet and social media services have been fully restored. We apologise for the inconvenience caused, but it was for the security of our country. Let’s be constructive, not destructive consumers/users of social media,” minister Ogwang’ said.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube, have been blocked since January 12, 2020, as the country geared up for the 2021 general elections. A day later, the country went into a total internet shutdown on 13 January. Although the internet was restored after the elections, social media platforms remained blocked. Several Ugandans, including cabinet ministers, however, continued to access the blocked social media platforms using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
Online services were severely restricted on the eve of the 14 January elections after the government ordered telecom companies to block access to social media platforms as a “retaliation.” President Museveni had been angered by Facebook’s decision to remove accounts linked to the ruling National Resistance (NRM) party after its investigations found that they had been involved in a coordinated operation to maliciously target opposition members. “There is no way anybody can come [here] and play around with our country and decide who is good [and] who is bad,” President Museveni said at the time, while also accusing Facebook of “arrogance.”
Social media networks including Facebook and Instagram, and the messaging program WhatsApp, experienced disruptions in access beginning 11 January, said media reports and reporting by the Collaboration for Internet Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), an Uganda-based digital rights group.
Several human rights organisations have led strong criticism against the Ugandan government for the internet shutdown and social media ban. Yet the government still insists it was necessary to shut down the internet and social media for security reasons.
A government spokesman then said an unprecedented internet shutdown imposed on 13 January for alleged national security reasons had been lifted.”The internet has been restored. Other platforms are still under review,” Ofwono Opondo, the spokesman, told AFP. “We shall go full throttle depending on what happens in the initial phase of opening connectivity… We advise internet users, especially those from the opposition, not to use it to promote hate messages, threats” and intimidation,” he concluded.
Social media access, however, remained patchy in the capital where millions of internet users have been unable to send emails, browse, or use Facebook, WhatsApp and other communication platforms for the better part of a week.
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