The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Government of Rwanda Spokesperson, Louise Mushikiwabo, has expressed disappointment over a decision taken by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to censor social media messages from presidential candidates describing the act as suppression of citizens’ views.
As Mushikiwabo held conversations with various followers on Twitter yesterday, she said the decision is not necessary as Rwandans are mature and respect laws that whoever disrespects them has to be held accountable individually.
“I strongly respect the National Electoral Commission but I disagree with licensing Rwandans on social media messages,” she tweeted.
“The thing is: majority of Rwandans are mature and law-abiding; the few abusers should face the law, instead of restricting citizens’ views!” she said.
"Sharing with NEC before expressing ourselves is problematic! Let Rwandans air views on elections, then the law take its course, if needed!” she added.
Mushikiwabo highlighted that she agrees with NEC on objective, which is to prevent divisionism, abuse but ‘don’t agree on the applied method!’
She said that ‘Rwanda has laws that deal with criminal behavior’ insisting that preventing abuse is right but faulted censoring freedom of expression.
Mushikiwabo’s comments follow the NEC Chairman Prof Kalisa Mbanda comments who said that the regulations incorporate clauses restricting individual supporters from holding campaigns on social media except when that individual was declared among the team members allowed to campaign for a particular presidential candidate.
Mbanda explained that a candidate must present the team helping in presidential campaigning to NEC prior to the campaigns.
According to the regulations, members of the team are required to submit all social media messages to NEC for censor before sharing to with the public.
Mbanda explained that failure to comply with regulations would lead to closure of the social network.
NEC announced that social media campaigns have to end the same date the presidential campaigns close.
The Minister of Justice and State’s Attorney General, Johnston Busingye has via twitter account said that “Rwandans have a right to ask and receive explanations on government programs regarding laws and regulations and even take part in it.”
NEC had announced the move last week in a press briefing that current regulations allow censor of social media use during presidential campaigns.