"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno

OkayAfrica FEBRUARY 7, 2019 - by OkayAfrica


The proposed law would require government approval before the release of any songs, videos or films.

Although freedom of expression is protected under the Ugandan constitution, it's been coming under increased fire from the government of President Museveni.

We saw the unjust imprisonment, government harassment and physical violence against musician and opposition lawmaker Bobi Wine for speaking out against the president. Wine was arrested twice and tortured while in military custody in August of last year.

Now, Uganda's government is proposing a new law that would require the vetting of new songs, videos and film scripts prior to their release.

Under the new legislation all Ugandan artists and filmmakers would have to:

1) Register and obtain a license, which could be revoked for any perceived infraction.
2) Submit song lyrics for songs and film scripts to the government prior to release for approval; content deemed to contain offensive language or be lewd or copy someone else's work would be censured.
3) Musicians will also have to seek government permission to perform outside Uganda.

A number of high-profile artists, authors, managers, and politicians have now banded together to sign a petition against the proposed law.

Read the full letter below, which is signed by Bono, Brian Eno, Dele Sosimi, Femi Kuti, Irene Ntale, Jonathan Lethem, Lemi Ghariokwu, Les Claypool, Margaret Atwood, Mr Eazi, Peter Gabriel, Seun Kuti, Stephen Budd, Stephen Hendel, Yeni Kuti, Wole Soyinka, Amy Tan and more:

Artists should not have to seek government approval to make their art.

Uganda's government is proposing regulations that include vetting new songs, videos and film scripts, prior to their release. Musicians, producers, promoters, filmmakers and all other artists will also have to register with the government and obtain a licence that can be revoked for a range of violations.

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned by these proposals, which are likely to be used to stifle criticism of the government.

We, the undersigned, vehemently oppose the draconian legislation currently being prepared by the Ugandan government that will curtail the freedom of expression in the creative arts of all musicians, producers and filmmakers in the country.

The planned legislation includes:

- All Ugandan artists and filmmakers required to register and obtain a licence,revokable for any perceived infraction.

- Artists required to submit lyrics for songs and scripts for film and stage performances to authorities to be vetted.

- Content deemed to contain offensive language, to be lewd or to copy someone else's work will be censured.

- Musicians will also have to seek government permission to perform outside Uganda.

Contained in a fourteen-page draft Bill that bypasses Parliament and will come before Cabinet alone in March to be passed into law, any artist, producer or promoter who is considered to be in breach of its guidelines shall have his/her certificate revoked.

This proposed legislation is in direct contravention of Clause 29 1a b of the Ugandan Constitution which states: 29. Protection of freedom of conscience, expression, movement, religion, assembly and association. (1) Every person shall have the right to - (a) Freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the media; (b) Freedom of thought, conscience and belief which shall include academic freedom in institutions of learning;

Furthermore, in accordance with Clause 40 (2)(2) Every person in Uganda has the right to practise his or her profession and to carry on any lawful occupation, trade or business. As a Member State of the African Union, the Republic of Uganda has ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Article 9 of the Charter provides:

1. Every individual shall have the right to receive information.

2. Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.

We therefore call upon the Ugandan government to end this grievous and blatant violation of the constitutional rights of Ugandan artists and producers, and to honour its international obligations as laid down in the various international human rights conventions to which Uganda is a signatory and for Uganda to uphold freedom of speech.

ABTEX Producer, Uganda / ADAM CLAYTON - Musician, U2 / ALEX SOBEL - Member of Parliament, United Kingdom / AMY TAN - Novelist, Screenwriter / ANDY HEINTZ - Freelance journalist and author / USAANN ADEKE - Member of Parliament, Uganda / ANNU PALAKUNNATHU MATTHEW - Artist, USA and India / ASUMAN BASALIRWA - Member of Parliament, Ugandav / AYELET WALDMAN - Writer / BELINDA ATIM - Uganda Sustainable Development Initiative / BILL SHIPSEY - Founder, Art for Amnesty / BONO - Musician, U2 / BRIAN ENO - Artist, Musician and Producer / BRUCE ANDERSON - Journalist Editor/Publisher / CLAUDIO CAMBON - Artist/Translator, France / CRISPIN BLUNT - Member of Parliament and former Chair of Foreign Affairs Select Committee, United Kingdom / DAN MAGIC - Producer, Uganda / DANIEL HANDLER - Writer, Musician AKA Lemony Snicket / DAVID FLOWER - Director, Sasa Music / DAVID HARE - Playwright / DAVID SANCHEZ - Saxophonist and Grammy Winner / DEBORAH BRUGUERA - Activist, Italy / DELE SOSIMI - Musician, The Afrobeat Orchestra / DOCTOR HILDERMAN - Artist, Uganda / DR VINCENT MAGOMBE - Journalist and Broadcaster / DR PAUL WILLIAMS - Member of Parliament, United Kingdom / EDDIE HATITYE - Director, Music In Africa / EDDY KENZO - Artist, Uganda / EDWARD SIMON - Musician and Composer, Venezuela / ERIAS LUKWAGO - Lord Mayor of Kampala, Uganda / ELYSE PIGNOLET - Visual Artist, USA / ERIC HARLAND - Musician / FEMI ANIKULAPO KUTI - Musician, Nigeria / FEMI FALANA - Human Rights Lawyer, Nigeria / FRANCIS ZAAKE - Member of Parliament, Uganda / FRANK RYNNE - Senior Lecturer British Studies, UCP, France / GARY LUCAS - Musician / GERALD KARUHANGA - Member of Parliament, Uganda / GINNY SUSS - Manager, Producer / HELEN EPSTEIN - Professor of Journalism, Bard College / HENRY LOUIS GATES - Director of the Hutchins Center at Harvard University / HUGH CORNWELL - Musician / IAIN NEWTON - Marketing Consultant / IRENE NAMATOVU - Artist, Uganda / IRENE NTALE - Artist, Uganda / JANE CORNWELL - Journalist / JEFFREY KOENIG - Partner, Serling Rooks Hunter McKoy Worob & Averill LLP / JESSE RIBOT - American University School of International Service / JIM GOLDBERG - Photographer, Professor Emeritus at California College of the Arts / JODIE GINSBERG - CEO, Index on Censorship / JOEL SSENYONYI - Journalist, Uganda / JON FAWCETT - Cultural Events Producer / JON SACK - Artist / JOHN AJAH - CEO, Spinlet / JOHN CARRUTHERS - Music Executive / JOHN GROGAN - Member of Parliament, United Kingdom / JONATHAN LETHEM - Novelist / JONATHAN MOSCONE - Theater Director / JONATHAN PATTINSON - Co-Founder Reluctantly Brave / JOHNNY BORRELL - Singer, Razorlight / JOJO MEYER - Musician / KADIALY KOUYATE - Musician, Senegal / KALUNDI SERUMAGA - Former Director, Uganda National Cultural Centre/National Theatre / KASIANO WADRI - Member of Parliament, Uganda / KEITH RICHARDS OBE - Writer / KEMIYONDO COUTINHO - Filmmaker, Uganda / KENNETH OLUMUYIWA THARP CBE - Director The Africa Centre / KING SAHA - Artist, Uganda / KWEKU MANDELA - Filmmaker / LAUREN ROTH DE WOLF - Music Manager, Orchestra of Syrian Musicians / LEMI GHARIOKWU - Visual Artist, Nigeria / LEO ABRAHAMS - Producer, Musician, Composer / LES CLAYPOOL - Musician, Primus / LINDA HANN MD - Linda Hann Consulting Group / LUCIE MASSEY - Creative Producer / LUCY DURAN - Professor of Music at SOAS University of London / LYNDALL STEIN - Activist/Campaigner, United Kingdom / MARC RIBOT - Musician / MARCUS DRAVS - Producer / MAREK FUCHS - MD Sauti Sol Entertainment, Kenya / MARGARET ATWOOD - Author / MARK LEVINE - Professor of History, UC Irvine - Grammy winning artist / MARY GLINDON - Member of Parliament, United Kingdom / MATT PENMAN - Musician, New Zealand / MARTIN GOLDSCHMIDT - Chairman, Cooking Vinyl Group / MEDARD SSEGONA - Member of Parliament, Uganda / MICHAEL CHABON - Writer / MICHAEL LEUFFEN - NTS Host, Carhartt WIP Music Rep / MICHAEL UWEDEMEDIMO - Director, CMAP and Research Fellow, King's College London / MILTON ALLIMADI - Publisher, The Black Star News / MORGAN MARGOLIS - President, Knitting Factory Entertainment, USA / MOUSTAPHA DIOP - Musician, Senegal MusikBi CEO / MR EAZI - Musician, Producer, Nigeria / MUWANGA KIVUMBI - Member of Parliament, Uganda / NAOMI WEBB - Executive Director, Good Chance Theatre, United Kingdom / NICK GOLD - Owner, World Circuit Records / NUBIAN LI - Artist, Uganda / OHAL GRIETZER - Composer / OBED CALVAIRE - Musician / OMOYELE SOWORE - Founder Sahara Reporters and Nigerian Presidential Candidate / PATRICK GRADY - Member of Parliament, United Kingdom / PAUL MWIRU - Member of Parliament, Uganda / PETER GABRIEL - Musician / RACHEL SPENCE - Arts Writer and Poet, United Kingdom / RASHEED ARAEEN - Artist, United Kingdom / RAYMOND MUJUNI - Journalist, Uganda / RHETT MILLER - Musician, Writer / RILIWAN SALAM - Artist Manager / ROBERT MAILER ANDERSON - Writer and Producer / ROBIN DENSELOW - Journalist, United Kingdom / ROBIN EUBANKS - Trombonist, Composer, Educator / ROBIN RIMBAUD - Musician / RUTH DANIEL - CEO, In Place of War / SAMIRA BIN SHARIFU - DJ / SANDOW BIRK - Visual Artist, USA / SANDRA IZSADORE - Author, Artist, Activist, USA / SEAN JONES - Musician, Composer, Bandleader, Educator / SEUN ANIKULAPO KUTI - Musician, Composer / SHAHIDUL ALAM - Photojournalist and Activist, Bangladesh / SIMON WOLF - Senior Associate, Amsterdam & Partners LLP / SRIRAK PLIPAT - Executive Director, Freemuse / STEPHEN BUDD - Africa Express / SEBASTIAN ROCHFORD - Musician, Polar Bear / SOFIA KARIM - Architect and Artist / STEPHEN HENDEL - Kalakuta Sunrise LLC / STEVE JONES - Musician and Producer / SUZANNE NOSSEL - CEO, PEN America / TANIA BRUGUERA - Artist and Activist, Cuba / TOM CAIRNES - Co-Founder Freetown Music Festival / WOLE SOYINKA - Nobel Laureate, Nigeria / YENI ANIKULAPO KUTI - Co-Executor of the Fela Anikulapo Kuti Estate / ZENA WHITE - MD, Knitting Factory and Partisan Records