Freedom House Condemns Uganda’s Restriction of Political Speech

Washington

Freedom House condemns the passage of the Public Order Management Bill by Uganda’s Parliament on August 7, 2013, which gives the government of President Yoweri Museveni broad powers to restrict free speech, curtail freedom of assembly, and stifle political dissent.

The law requires groups to register with local police seven days before their planned event and dictates that any gathering can be considered a protest if it consists of more than three people, either in public or private, or offers an occasion where participants discuss anything of a political nature. If the police have not given explicit prior approval for the meeting the participants can be arrested; if they resist, the bill gives police the legal authority to use deadly force against them. Groups that attempt to register their gatherings may be denied by the government for any “reasonable cause.”

“This is a shocking escalation of political repression,” said Vukasin Petrovic, director of Africa programs at Freedom House. “This legislation blatantly contravenes international norms and seems designed to stifle free expression.”

President Yoweri Museveni and the National Resistance Movement party have ruled Uganda since 1986. For most of that time, other political parties were banned. Although the current legal conditions technically allow other parties to operate, both official and unofficial repression has allowed the NRM and Museveni to remain comfortably in power.

“The progressive erosion of democratic values in Uganda is both profoundly negative in its implications for Uganda’s development, and a further indictment of a government that no longer even pretends to govern in the interests of its people,” said Chloe Schwenke, vice president for global programs at Freedom House. Dr. Schwenke is a former Fulbright professor at Makerere University in Kampala and an activist who has been directly engaged in Uganda’s development since 1979.

Freedom House calls on the international community to take coordinated action against this systematic and pernicious suppression of political freedom, and to press Ugandan lawmakers to repeal the law and abide by international human rights standards prohibiting political repression.

Uganda is ranked Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2013, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2013.

For more information on Uganda, visit:

Freedom in the World 2013: Uganda

Freedom of the Press 2013: Uganda

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.

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