The National Electoral commission (NEC) has modified regulations that will govern social media usage during next month’s presidential campaigns.
The new regulations, which were published in the Special edition of official gazette on Friday, indicate that NEC “allows social media usage during campaigns.”
This follows public feedback, arising from the commission’s move to vet presidential campaign messages—with many regarding it as an intrusion on the rights of speech and expression.
About a week ago, the Chairperson of the electoral commission, Professor Kalisa Mbanda told journalists that the NEC expects presidential candidates deliver their messages to the NEC for vetting before they are published, a move, he said, was to “protect” masses from messages that may be of a divisive nature.
“Candidates will be expected to register members of their team who will be managing social media platforms as well as well presenting the campaign message for our perusal before it’s posted,” Mbanda said.
He went on to tell reporters that, “Any message that is going out to a large number of people should first be seen by our office and we are going to work with different institutions that deal with communication and Information Technology to help us to make sure that this rule is followed.”
Article 7 of the new regulations governing social media usage indicates that, “it is permitted to use social media during presidential campaign.”
However, no one is allowed to use social media handles of public institution to campaign for any candidates, according to the new regulations.
“All other articles as well as other directives that had been issued by the electoral commission, which are contrary to these new regulations are null and void.” Article 9 of the new regulations reads.
Justice Minister, Johnston Busingye who doubles as the Attorney General told Sunday Times that the response from NEC is a testament that, “National Electoral commission is responsive to public dialogue.
“The public reacted to the regulation and the commission, which wants a safe, free and fair election, listened to the views of the public. They made the regulations, put them up there and the public engaged them seriously and then they went back to the drawing board. To me, that is a very good example of an institutions that listens to the views of the public,” He said.
Responding to the question as to whether NEC’s first attempt to vet presidential campaign was justifiable, Busingye said that, “I believe the commission was acting in good faith. Perhaps they thought it was good and they did so in the interests of the public. I want to give them a benefit of doubt that they did it in good faith, but I also want to commend them for very quickly listening to the views of the public and adjusting accordingly.”
According to the electoral calendar, the final list of Presidential candidates will be announced on July 7.
Campaigns are expected to run from July 14 to August 3.NEC will also not permit the dissemination of mass messages from candidates when the campaign period closes.
Close to 6.8 million will participate in the election from 5.7 million who participated in 2010 presidential election, according NEC.