Online freedom of speech continues to be restricted in Uganda as a human rights activist, Dr Stella Nyanzi was arrested and detained last week in Uganda. She was in custody for more than 48 hours for allegedly insulting the president, Yoweri Museveni and his late mother, Esiteri Kokundeka.
Paradigm Initiative, in a statement released on Thursday, condemned the arrest and asked the government to immediately release Dr Nyanzi.
Nyanzi was also arrested last year for “abusive” and “demeaning” communication and was charged with two counts, one of Cyber Harassment contrary to Section 24 (1)(2)(a) of the Computer Misuse Act 2011 and Offensive Communication contrary to Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011.
According to Wathagi Ndungu, Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow for Eastern and Southern Africa, “We join Uganda’s civil society groups and Ugandans on Twitter, who are campaigning for her release. It is important to note that this detention by the police went on beyond the mandatory 48 hours as provided for in the Constitution and is a gross violation of her fundamental human rights.”
Nyanzi was brought before the courts yesterday afternoon, at Buganda Road Court where she was charged with the offences of Cyber Harassment and Offensive Communication. The magistrate also charged her with harassing and attacking the privacy of the president. These charges come under the Computer Misuse Act of 2011. We find the charges unnecessary and an abuse of state power.
The much abused section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011 says, “Any person who willfully and repeatedly uses electronic communication to disturb or attempts to disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication whether or not a conversation ensues commits a misdemeanour and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-four currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.”
Nyanzi has now been remanded to Luzira prison until Friday when she will again be presented to the court to take a plea. Paradigm Initiative calls on the government of Uganda to drop the charges against Dr Nyanzi, and allow all Ugandans the right to criticise and even offend political office holders without fear.
For more information on this statement, please send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.