The Electoral Commission (EC) in Rwanda has demanded that all presidential candidates present drafts of their social media messages for approval before they are posted.
The measure which takes efect from the start of the official presidential campaigns on July 14, concerns “messages, photographs and other campaign material” published on social networks.
According to Kalisa Mbanda, the Rwanda EC head, any social media messages by any candidate will have to be submitted to the seven election commissioners at least 48 hours before its publication.
“We are asking (candidates) to present us their messages, their drafts to verify that they are not against the law,” Mbanda reportedly said.
“If the message is not accepted it cannot be published,” he added.
Social media has been used often by discontented aspirants to criticize election results and declare parallel winners in a number of countries in Africa.
In February 2016, Uganda’s opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Presidential candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye used social media to declare himself the duly elected President before releasing a social media video being sworn in.
He would later be arrested and charged with treason.
According to Mbanda, the move is meant to “prevent declarations, words, acts that can lead the population to acts of insecurity that could divide the Rwandan population.”
This has however attracted criticism from the opposition candidates who fear it is a tool to prevent criticism of President Paul Kagame who is seeking re-election after the constitution was changed to allow him to run again.
The measure however doesn’t take into consideration a possibility of parody accounts that could be used to taint the names of the Presidential candidates to to deliver hate speech on behalf of the candidates.