KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda's government on Thursday banned media coverage of a protest movement against the disputed re-election of the country's long-time president.
A Cabinet meeting on Wednesday ordered a ban on live press coverage of a "defiance campaign" by opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who claims he won the presidential polls in February, Information Minister Jim Muhwezi told reporters in Uganda's capital, Kampala. The ban appears to be aimed at local television stations that have been broadcasting protests.
"This serves as a last warning," he said, adding that media outlets that defy the ban risk having their licenses revoked.
A Ugandan judge last week issued a temporary order stopping the protest events, but that decision has been criticized by rights activists as well as the Uganda Law Society, which urged the judiciary "not to lend itself to conduct that appears to undermine the enjoyment of human rights and freedoms."
In asserting the ban of live coverage of protest events, however, Ugandan officials —including the attorney general and the police chief — on Thursday cited the judge's order and said those who don't like it can appeal.
Besigye's party has been holding prayer sessions every Tuesday that are widely seen as a new form of anti-government protest. The security forces have repeatedly been deployed around Kampala, including outside the home of Besigye, to foil street protests. On Thursday police fired tear gas to disperse a small group of opposition supporters who had gathered in downtown Kampala.
"It is a very worrying trend to the effect that liberties are being eroded gradually," said Livingstone Sewanyana of the Kampala-based group Foundation for Human Rights Initiative.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who took power by force in 1986, is due to be sworn in May 12. His critics increasingly accuse him of trying to rule for life.