Mr. Eazi, Seun and Femi Kuti, Wole Soyinka Lend Their Voices Against Ugandan Censorship Laws: An Explainer

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A lot has been going in the news regarding Uganda. It was reported that there are proposed Ugandan censorship laws which will make it easier to control the narratives of artists and filmmakers. For those unfamiliar with the issues surrounding the proposed bill or those who may not fully understand the issue here’s a quick explainer to make things clearer.

What is the Ugandan Censorship law?

Ugandan Censorship law

The government of Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni has had a long history colored with attempts at censoring, especially of the media, throughout it’s thirty- three year sit in power. Now, the government is seeking to take its censorship agenda to new frontiers as it makes attempts to curtail freedom of expression through a revised version of the Stage Plays and Public Entertainment Act.

About a month ago, a copy of the fresh draft proposal of the act aimed at vetting new songs and films created by Ugandan creatives, was leaked on social media. Under the new legislation, all Ugandan artists and filmmakers would be mandated to:

  1. Register and obtain a license, which could be revoked for any perceived infraction.
  2. Submit song lyrics for songs and film scripts to the government prior to release for approval. Content deemed to contain offensive language or be lewd or would be censured.
  3. Musicians will also have to seek government permission to perform outside Uganda.

The act also introduces guidelines to crackdown indecent dressed performers, cautioning a possible disciplinary action.

Why was the bill proposed ?

The bill draft came about in the wake of popular musician-turned-MP Bobi Wine’s rallying of a section of Ugandans through his ‘People Power’ movement. The timing of the drafts coincides with the international outcry of Bobi Wine during his time arrest and alleged torture by soldiers.

Strongly in opposition of Museveni’s over three decade long rule, his stances have often been met with continued frustration by police officers to block his shows and concerts. The newly put in place censorship laws could very well be as a result of Bobi Wine’s activities.

What are the reactions to the proposed bill?

Different reactions have sprung up since the news got out. The draft bill has received both massive condemnation and also acceptance.

Recently, a plethora of high profile artists from every corner of the continent including Wole Soyinka, Lemi Ghariokwu, Mr. Eazi, Femi and Seun Kuti, Bono, Irene Ntale and Jonathan Lethem have lent their voices and platforms to taking a stand against the newly proposed censorship laws by the Ugandan Government. The artists have all signed a petition to the effect in hopes that in some way, their voices will be heard and the success of the draft bill in parliament will be hindered

Uganda’s Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Peace Mutuuzo, said that the regulations are put in place in order to govern the music and entertainment industry. Mutuzuuzo told Reuters during an interview.

We cannot continue condoning…abusive language. This we know has been happening within the creative industry. People compose songs to abuse others,

Freemuse executive director Srirak Plipat speaks out against the move by the government stating

It is inconsistent with international human rights standards which Uganda is a part of. This will strangle artists and everyone who has the right to cultural expression and artistic freedom. We call on the government to immediately abandon this plan.

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