More than 130 musicians, writers and artists, together with many British and Ugandan members of parliament, have signed a petition calling on Uganda to drop plans for regulations that include vetting songs, videos and film scripts prior to their release. Musicians, producers, promoters, filmmakers and all other artists would also have to register with the government and obtain a licence that can be revoked for a range of violations.
Index on Censorship is deeply concerned by these proposals, which are likely to be used to stifle criticism of the government.
“Around the world from Cuba to Indonesia and Uganda, artists are being pressured by governments seeking to control their art and their message. These misplaced efforts are an intolerable intrusion into artistic freedom and must not be enacted,” Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index said.
Signatories to the letter include U2’s Bono and Adam Clayton, author Wole Soyinka, and Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell.
Full text of the letter follows:
Uganda’s government is proposing regulations that include vetting new songs, videos and film scripts, prior to their release. Musicians, producers, promoters, filmmakers and all other artists will also have to register with the government and obtain a licence that can be revoked for a range of violations.
We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned by these proposals, which are likely to be used to stifle criticism of the government.
We, the undersigned, vehemently oppose the draconian legislation currently being prepared by the Ugandan government that will curtail the freedom of expression in the creative arts of all musicians, producers and filmmakers in the country.
The planned legislation includes:
- All Ugandan artists and filmmakers required to register and obtain a licence, revokable for any perceived infraction.
- Artists required to submit lyrics for songs and scripts for film and stage performances to authorities to be vetted.
- Content deemed to contain offensive language, to be lewd or to copy someone else’s work will be censured.
- Musicians will also have to seek government permission to perform outside Uganda.
Contained in a 14 page draft Bill that bypasses Parliament and will come before Cabinet alone in March to be passed into law, any artist, producer or promoter who is considered to be in breach of its guidelines shall have his/her certificate revoked.
This proposed legislation is in direct contravention of Clause 29 1a b of the Ugandan
Constitution which states:
- Protection of freedom of conscience, expression, movement, religion,
assembly and association.
(1) Every person shall have the right to—
(a) Freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the media;
(b) Freedom of thought, conscience and belief which shall include academic
freedom in institutions of learning;
Furthermore, in accordance with Clause 40 (2)
(2) Every person in Uganda has the right to practise his or her profession and to
carry on any lawful occupation, trade or business.
As a Member State of the African Union, the Republic of Uganda has ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Article 9 of the Charter provides:
- Every individual shall have the right to receive information.
- Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.
We therefore call upon the Ugandan government to end this grievous and blatant
violation of the constitutional rights of Ugandan artists and producers, and to honour
its international obligations as laid down in the various international human rights
conventions to which Uganda is a signatory and for Uganda to uphold freedom of speech.
- Although freedom of expression is protected under the Uganda constitution, it is coming under increasing threat in the country.
- In 2018, authorities arrested popular musician and opposition member of parliament, Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine. He was badly beaten in military custody. Musicians, writers and social activists including Chris Martin, Angelique Kidjo, U2’s The Edge, Damon Albarn and Wole Soyinka, signed a petition calling for his release, which ultimately succeeded.
- Since July 1, Ugandans have had to pay a tax of 200 shillings, about 5 US cents, for every day they use services including Facebook, Twitter, Skype and WhatsApp.
- The government said it wanted to regulate online gossip, or idle talk but critics fear this meant it wanted to censor opponents.
- During the presidential election in 2016, officials blocked access to Facebook and Twitter
- On Thursday January 31 a statement was made by Jeremy Hunt MP, the UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs: “”We are aware of the proposed regulations to the Ugandan music and entertainment industry that are currently being consulted on and are yet to be approved by the Cabinet. The UK’s position is that such regulations must not be used as a means of censorship. The UK supports freedom of expression as a fundamental human right and, alongside freedom of the media, maintains that it is an essential quality of any functioning democracy. We continue to raise any concerns around civic and political issues directly with the Ugandan government.”