Uganda: Freedom of expression takes a knock as Stella Nyanzi found guilty of cyber harassment
Responding to the guilty verdict for Ugandan academic Stella Nyanzi on the charge of cyber harassment of President Yoweri Museveni, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Joan Nyanyuki said:
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.
“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. Public officials, including those exercising the highest political authority, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition.
Public officials, including those exercising the highest political authority, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition.
“This verdict is outrageous and flies in the face of Uganda’s obligations to uphold the right to freedom of expression for all people in Uganda and demonstrates the depths of the government’s intolerance of criticism. It must be quashed and Stella Nyanzi, who has already suffered enormously for expressing her opinions, let to get on with her life.
“The Ugandan authorities must scrap the Computer Misuse Act 2011 which has been used systematically to harass, intimidate and stifle government critics like Stella Nyanzi.”
Stella Nyanzi, formerly a research fellow at Makerere University’s Institute for Social Research, posted a birthday poem on Facebook for President Yoweri Museveni on 16 September 2018.
She wrote: “I wish the acidic pus flooding Esiteri’s (the president’s mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn foetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda.”
She was arrested on 2 November 2018 and presented to court in May 2019 to answer to charges of cyber harassment and offensive communication. She was acquitted of the latter charge.
Stella Nyanzi has been repeatedly harassed, arrested and detained, simply for speaking out against the government. In January 2019 she told a High Court judge that she suffered a miscarriage while at Luzira Prison. In February the University of Makerere terminated her employment having suspended in 2016.