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Ugandan TikToker Jailed for Insulting President Museveni

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Ayize claire

Jul 11, 2024

Edward Awebwa sentenced to six years for hate speech, sparking debates on freedom of expression and human rights in Uganda.

A 24-year-old Ugandan TikToker, Edward Awebwa, has been sentenced to six years in prison for posting a video insulting President Yoweri Museveni, First Lady Janet Museveni, and their son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba. The court found Awebwa guilty of hate speech and spreading "misleading and malicious" information.

Charges and Sentencing

Awebwa faced charges for making abusive remarks, including claims that there would be an increase in taxes under President Museveni. Despite pleading guilty and asking for forgiveness, the presiding magistrate, Stella Maris Amabilis, noted that Awebwa did not appear remorseful. She stated that the vulgar language used in the video warranted a punishment that would teach him to respect the president and his family. Awebwa received a six-year sentence for each of the four charges, which will run concurrently.

Human Rights Concerns

Rights groups frequently criticize Ugandan authorities for human rights violations and restricting freedom of expression. In 2022, acclaimed Ugandan author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija faced similar charges for "offensive communication" after criticizing the president and his son on Twitter. Rukirabashaija fled to Germany after claiming he was tortured during his month-long detention.

Activist and writer Stella Nyanzi also experienced imprisonment after publishing a critical poem about President Museveni. She, too, has since gone into exile.

Legal and Political Context

President Museveni, in power since 1986, signed a controversial law in 2022 that critics argue suppresses online freedom of speech. Although the constitutional court ruled that a section of the act penalizing "offensive communication" was unconstitutional, broader laws still pose challenges to free expression.

Ugandan human rights lawyer Michael Aboneka commented on the case, stating that the charges against Awebwa are part of an ongoing legal battle. Aboneka emphasized that public figures, including the president and his family, should expect criticism and questioned the practicality of arresting every critic in Uganda.

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