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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Ugandan skitmaker bags 6years jail term for criticizing president

A 24-year-old Ugandan skitmaker, Edward Awebwa, has been sentenced to six years imprisonment for creating a TikTok video that insulted President Yoweri Museveni, and his wife, Janet Museveni, and their son Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the head of the military.

Awebwa was charged with hate speech and spreading false information, including a claim that taxes would increase under President Museveni’s leadership.

Despite pleading guilty and apologizing, the court deemed Awebwa’s words “vulgar” and sentenced him to six years on each of the four charges, to be served concurrently.

“The accused deserves a punishment which will enable him learn from his past so that next time he will respect the person of the president, the first lady and the first son,” magistrate Stella Maris Amabilis said.

The court verdict yesterday has resulted in criticism from rights groups, who accused Ugandan authorities of suppressing freedom of expression.

Similar cases include those authored by Kakwenza Rukirabashaija and an activist, Stella Nyanzi, who were both charged with “offensive communication” for criticizing the president and his family.

President Museveni has been in power since 1986 and has been accused of silencing dissenting voices.

The law under which Awebwa was charged has been challenged in court for its vagueness and potential to stifle online free speech.

Rights groups argue that the law is used to target political opponents and stifle dissent, rather than protect citizens from harmful speech.

Ugandan human rights lawyer, Michael Aboneka, stated that Awebwa had been charged under a vague law that is still being challenged in court.

Aboneka argued that the law is unconstitutional and targets people who speak out against the government.

The Ugandan government has faced criticism from international human rights organizations for its treatment of political opponents and suppression of free speech.

The case against the tiktoker has sparked concerns about the growing trend of criminalizing free speech in Uganda. As the country moves forward, it remains to be seen how the government will balance the need to protect citizens from harmful speech with the need to protect freedom of expression.

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