The decision by Rwanda’s electoral body to vet social media messages of presidential aspirants has received heavy backlash.
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) had proposed that presidential aspirants needed to submit messages to them for approval before they could publish them on social media. The vetting was supposed to commence on July 14 whiles the polls are scheduled for August 4.
According to head of the NEC, their proposal was aimed at ‘‘avoiding expressions, words, acts that can lead to situations of insecurity and the awakening of division among the Rwandan population.’‘
Prevent abuse: yes, censor: no! Hon. NEC is preventing abuse of social network which can be harmful if not regulated in process of election.
But the country’s Foreign Minister, the media regulator and rights activists have slammed the move. Minister Mushikiwabo described the move as akin to censorship.
She said Rwandans were matured and should be allowed to air their views. ‘‘The few abusers should face the law, instead of restricting citizens’ views!’‘ she added.
Prevent abuse:yes,censor:no! “Hon. NEC is preventing abuse of social network which can be harmful if not regulated in process of election.”— Louise Mushikiwabo (@LMushikiwabo) May 30, 2017
For their part, media regulator – the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) said they reaffirm the rights of Rwandans to express themselves on social media with due respect for the law. It is not yet clear if the NEC will retract on the move as yet.
Incumbent Paul Kagame is widely expected to win the upcoming polls by a landslide. His main contender is Frank Habineza, leader of the Green Democratic Party (the only opposition party authorized for four years).
Habineza happens to be a former ruling party member who broke away. Political watchers peg Habineza’s vote tally at about 5%. Kagame won 95% of votes in 2003 and dropped by 2% points to 93% in 2010.