The Electoral Commission in Rwanda has revised and modified their directives on social media use by Presidential candidates and other members of the public during elections time.
PC Tech Magazine last week reported about the move by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to control and regulate all social media posts and messages by all the presidential candidates.
Rwanda NEC chief Kalisa Mbanda argued that the move was meant to prevent declarations, words, acts that can lead the population to acts of insecurity that could divide the Rwandan population.
In the directive, all messages, photographs and other campaign material by presidential candidates were required to be submitted to the seven election commissioners at least 48 hours before their publication.
The move attracted criticism from political commentators and rights activists from across the world who referred to it as an intrusion on the rights of speech and expression.
But according to new regulations, which were published in a Special edition of official gazette on Friday June 2nd, NEC “allows free social media usage during campaigns.”
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.
Earlier in the week, Communications Regulator, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) had clarified that the NEC had “no mandate to regulate or interrupt the use of social media by citizens.”
“RURA as the statutory regulator has not had any discussions with NEC on this subject and would like to reaffirm the right of citizens to express themselves on social media … while respecting existing laws,” wrote spokesman Anthony Kulamba.