News Brief

Eddy Kenzo, Femi & Seun Kuti, Bono, Mr Eazi & More Sign Petition Against Uganda's Censorship Law

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

Although freedom of expression is protected under the Uganda 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 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.



Read the full letter:

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

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

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

We, the undersigned, vehemently oppose the draconian legislation currently beingprepared by the Ugandan government that will curtail the freedom of expression in thecreative 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 stageperformances to authorities to be vetted.

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

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

Contained in a 14 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 UgandanConstitution 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 AfricanCharter 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, Uganda 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 SelectCommittee, 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, UgandaKWEKU 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, UgandaMICHAEL 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, USAMOUSTAPHA 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, USASANDRA IZSADORE – Author, Artist, Activist, USASEAN 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, Pola 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

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Photo courtesy of CNOA

These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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