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Ugandan Man Jailed For Insulting President On TikTok

Uganda's President Museveni tests positive for COVID | Reuters

A UGANDAN court has sentenced Edward Awebwa, a 24-year-old man, to six years in prison for insulting President Yoweri Museveni, First Lady Janet Museveni, and their son Muhoozi Kainerugaba via a TikTok video. Awebwa was charged with hate speech and disseminating ‘misleading and malicious’ information, including claims about tax increases under President Museveni.

Despite Awebwa’s plea for forgiveness, Magistrate Stella Maris Amabilis found him unremorseful, stating that his vulgar language warranted a stern punishment to ensure respect for the president and his family. Awebwa received six-year sentences for each of the four charges, to be served concurrently.

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Rights groups frequently criticise Ugandan authorities for human rights violations and suppression of free expression. Notable incidents include the 2022 charges against author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija for ‘offensive communication’ about the president and his son, leading to his exile in Germany. Activist and writer Stella Nyanzi also faced imprisonment for her critical remarks against President Museveni.

President Museveni, in power since 1986, has faced continuous scrutiny for policies that allegedly suppress online freedom of speech. In 2022, a law targeting speech was enacted, despite opposition from rights groups. A section penalising ‘offensive communication’ was later ruled unconstitutional by the constitutional court. Human rights lawyer Michael Aboneka argues that the broad law used to charge Awebwa is vague and continues to challenge it in court, asserting that public figures should expect criticism.

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