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Stella Nyanzi conviction a blow to freedom of expression –Amnesty International

FILE PHOTO: Stella Nyanzi

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Amnesty International has condemned the conviction of Academic Researcher Stella Nyanzi on the charge of cyber harassment.

The conviction stemmed from a boorish birthday poem, targeted at the President’s late mother Esteeri Kokundeka, which was posted on Stella Nyanzi’s social media pages on September 16, 2018, a day after President Museveni’s 74th birthday.

In the post, Stella Nyanzi crafted vulgarity to wish that President Museveni should have died at the time of his birth. But the prosecution said that the post disturbed the peace, quiet or right of privacy of President Museveni.

Nyanzi formerly a research fellow at Makerere University Institute for Social Research, was arrested on 2 November 2018 and presented to the court to answer to charges of cyber harassment and offensive communication.

On Thursday, Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu acquitted her of offensive communication but found her guilty of cyber harassment, a crime that attracts a maximum sentence of three years or a fine of 1.4 million shillings.

But Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Joan Nyanyuki described the conviction as outrageous. She says that the decision by the courts demonstrates the depths of the government’s intolerance of criticism and flies in the face of Uganda’s obligations to uphold the right to freedom of expression for all people.

Nyanyuki says that the conviction should be quashed and Stella Nyanzi, “who has already suffered enormously for expressing her opinions,” let to get on with her life.

“Stella Nyanzi has been criminalized solely for her creative flair of using metaphors and what may be considered insulting language to criticize President Museveni’s leadership. The mere fact that forms of expression are considered insulting to a public figure is not sufficient ground to penalize anyone,” She says.

She further appeals that efforts be taken to scrap the Computer Misuse Act 2011 which, according to her, has been used systematically to harass, intimidate and stifle government critics like Stella Nyanzi.

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