The Ugandan government is planning to introduce new regulations restricting artistic freedom of expression in the country. The regulations demand all artists register with the government, obtain a revocable practicing license and seek governmental permission to perform abroad, according to Reuters.
The regulations also require artists to submit film and theatre scripts and song lyrics to the authorities for prior approval; any content deemed lewd, offensive or plagiarising someone else’s work will be censured.
“The legal requirement of prior approval for all key artistic expression is a major step backwards for the Ugandan government. It is inconsistent with international human rights standards which Uganda is a party of. This will strangle artists and everyone who has the right to cultural expression and artistic freedom. We call on the government to immediately abandon this plan,” Freemuse Executive Director Srirak Plipat said.
Peace Mutuuzo, Uganda’s Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, said the regulations have already been drafted and are planned to be passed in March by the Cabinet. She said the bill was necessary because “we cannot continue condoning as a country abusive language. This is one thing we know has been happening within the creative industry. People compose songs to abuse others”, reported Reuters.
Recently on social media, photos have appeared of “The Stage Plays and Public Entertainments Act Cap 49”, outlining regulations, offences and penalties for artists, event organisers and promoters in Uganda. Plans to revive and amend this decades-old Act have been on the table since 2009.
The most recent push has arisen on the back of government-cancelled performances by pop star-turned-politician Bobi Wine in a suspected response to his anti-government stance and consequential large following by disillusioned Ugandan youths.