Wole Soyinka, Bono, Other Prominent Voices Denounce Gen. Museveni's Bid to Muzzle Ugandan Artists

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Wole Soyinka opposes Uganda regimes draconian censorship of artists. Photo: Facebook 

 

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 license that can be revoked for a range of violations.

 

More than 100 musicians, writers and artists 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 license 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.

 

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 license, 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:

 

29.   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 practice 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: 

1. Every individual shall have the right to receive information.

 

2. 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 honor 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.

 

Background

-- 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."

 

ABTEX – Producer, Uganda

ADAM CLAYTON – Musician U2

ALEX SOBEL – Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

AMY TAN – Novelist, Screenwriter

ANDY HEINTZ – Freelance journalist and author, USA

ANN ADEKE – Member of Parliament, Uganda

ASUMAN BASALIRWA – Member of Parliament, Uganda

AYELET WALDMAN - Writer

BELINDA ATIM - Uganda Sustainable Development Initiative

BILL SHIPSEY – Founder Art for Amnesty

BONO – Musician U2

BRIAN ENO – Artist, Musician and Producer

BRUCE ANDERSON – Journalist Editor/Publisher

CLAUDIO CAMBON – Artist/Translator, France

CRISPIN BLUNT - Member of Parliament and former Chair of Foreign Affairs Select Committee, United Kingdom

DAN MAGIC - Producer, Uganda

DANIEL HANDLER – Writer, Musician

DAVID FLOWER – Director Sasa Music

DAVID HARE – Playwright

DAVID SANCHEZ – Saxophonist and Grammy Winner

DEBORAH BRUGUERA – Activist, Italy

DELE SOSIMI – Musician – The Afrobeat Orchestra

DOCTOR HILDERMAN – Artist, Uganda

DR VINCENT MAGOMBE – Journalist and Broadcaster

DR PAUL WILLIAMS – UK Member of Parliament

EDDIE HATITYE – Director Music In Africa

EDDIE KENZO – Artist, Uganda

EDWARD SIMON – Musician and Composer Venezuela

ERIAS LUKWAGO – Lord Mayor of Kampala Uganda

ELYSE PIGNOLET – Visual Artist, USA

ERIC HARLAND - Musician

FEMI ANIKULAPO KUTI – Musician, Nigeria

FEMI FALANA – Human Rights Lawyer, Nigeria

FRANCIS ZAAKE – Member of Parliament, Uganda

FRANK RYNNE - Senior Lecturer British Studies, UCP, France

GERALD KARUHANGA – Member of Parliament, Uganda

GINNY SUSS – Manager, Producer

HELEN EPSTEIN – Professor of Journalism Bard College

HUGH CORNWELL - Musician

IAIN NEWTON – Marketing Consultant

IRENE NAMATOVU – Artist, Uganda

IRENE NTALE – Artist, Uganda

JANE CORNWELL – Journalist 

JEFFREY KOENIG – Partner Serling Rooks Hunter McKoy Worob & Averill LLP

JESSE RIBOT - American University School of International Service

JIM GOLDBERG – Photographer, Professor Emeritus at California College of the Arts

JODIE GINSBERG – CEO Index on Censorship 

JOEL SSENYONYI – Journalist, Uganda

JON SACK - Artist

JOHN AJAH – CEO Spinlet

JOHN CARRUTHERS – Music Executive

JOHN GROGAN – Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

JONATHAN LETHEM – Novelist

JONATHAN MOSCONE – Theater Director

JOHNNY BORRELL – Singer Razorlight

JOJO MEYER - Musician

KADIALY KOUYATE – Musician, Senegal

KALUNDI SERUMAGA – Former Director - Uganda National Cultural Centre/National Theatre

KASIANO WADRI – Member of Parliament, Uganda

KEITH RICHARDS OBE - Writer

KEMIYONDO COUTINHO – Filmmaker, Uganda

KENNETH OLUMUYIWA THARP CBE – Director The Africa Centre

KING SAHA – Artist, Uganda

KWEKU MANDELA – Filmmaker

LAUREN ROTH DE WOLF – Music Manager Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

LEMI GHARIOKWU – Visual Artist, Nigeria

LEO ABRAHAMS – Producer, Musician, Composer

LES CLAYPOOL – Musician Primus

LINDA HANN – MD Linda Hann Consulting Group

LUCIE MASSEY – Creative Producer

LUCY DURAN – Professor of Music at SOAS University of London

LYNDALL STEIN – Activist/Campaigner, United Kingdom

MARC RIBOT - Musician

MARCUS DRAVS - Producer

MAREK FUCHS - MD Sauti Sol Entertainment, Kenya

MARGARET ATWOOD – Author

MARK LEVINE – Professor of History UC Irvine – Grammy winning artist

MARY GLINDON – Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

MATT PENMAN – Musician, New Zealand

MARTIN GOLDSCHMIDT – Chairman Cooking Vinyl Group

MEDARD SSEGONA – Member of Parliament, Uganda

MICHAEL CHABON – Writer

MICHAEL LEUFFEN – NTS Host, Carhartt WIP Music Rep

MICHAEL UWEDEMEDIMO – Director CMAP & Research Fellow King’s College London

MILTON ALLIMADI- Publisher, The Black Star News

MOUSTAPHA DIOP - Musician Senegal MusikBi CEO

MUWANGA KIVUMBI – Member of Parliament, Uganda

NAOMI WEBB – Executive Director, Good Chance Theatre, United Kingdom

NICK GOLD – Owner World Circuit Records

NUBIAN LI – Artist, Uganda

OHAL GRIETZER – Composer

OBED CALVAIRE – Musician

OMOYELE SOWORE – Founder Sahara Reporters and Nigerian Presidential Candidate

PATRICK GRADY – Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

PAUL MWIRU – Member of Parliament, Uganda

PAUL WILLIAMS - Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

PETER GABRIEL – Musician

RASHEED ARAEEN – Artist, United Kingdom

RAYMOND MUJUNI – Journalist, Uganda

RHETT MILLER – Musician, Writer

RILIWAN SALAM – Artist Manager

ROBIN DENSELOW - Journalist, United Kingdom

ROBIN EUBANKS – Trombonist, Composer, Educator

ROBIN RIMBAUD - Musician

RUTH DANIEL – CEO In Place of War

SAMIRA BIN SHARIFU - DJ

SANDO BIRKE – Visual Artist, USA

SANDRA IZSADORE – Author, Artist, Activist, USA

SEAN JONES – Musician, Composer, Bandleader, Educator

SEUN ANIKULAPO KUTI – Musician, Composer

SHAHIDUL ALAM – Photojournalist and Activist, Bangladesh

SRIRAK PLIPAT – Executive Director Freemuse

STEPHEN BUDD – Africa Express

SEBASTIAN ROCHFORD – Musician Pola Bear

SOFIA KARIM – Architect and Artist

STEPHEN HENDEL – Kalakuta Sunrise LLC

STEVE JONES – Musician and Producer

SUZANNE NOSSEL – CEO PEN America

TANIA BRUGUERA – Artist and Activist, Cuba 

TOM CAIRNES – Co-Founder Freetown Music Festival

WOLE SOYINKA – Nobel Laureate Nigeria

YENI ANIKULAPO KUTI – Co-Executor of the Fela Anikulapo Kuti Estate

ZENA WHITE – MD Knitting Factory and Partisan Records

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