Ugandan TikToker jailed for insulting president


A court in Uganda has sentenced a 24-year-old man to six years in prison for insulting the president and the First Family in a video he posted on TikTok.

Edward Awebwa was charged with hate speech and spreading “misleading and malicious” information against President Yoweri Museveni, First Lady Janet Museveni and son Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who is the head of the military.

The court also heard that Awebwa had shared insulting information, claiming that there would be a tax increase under President Museveni.

He confessed his guilt and asked for forgiveness.

The examining magistrate said that while he had begged for mercy, he did not appear remorseful for his actions and that the words used in the video were “really vulgar.”

“The defendant deserves a punishment that will allow him to learn from his past, so that next time he will have respect for the person of the president, the first lady and the first son,” said Magistrate Stella Maris Amabilis.

He was sentenced to six years in prison for each of the four charges against him, to run concurrently.

Human rights organizations regularly criticize the Ugandan authorities for violations of human rights and freedom of expression.

In 2022, award-winning Ugandan author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was charged with two counts of “offensive communication” after making unflattering comments about the president and his son on Twitter.

He fled to Germany after spending a month in prison, where he claimed he had been tortured.

Activist and writer Stella Nyanzi, who also lives in exile, was previously jailed after publishing a poem critical of Museveni.

President Museveni has been in power since 1986, 14 years before Awebwa was born.

In 2022, he signed an anti-free speech law that was criticized by human rights groups, who said it was aimed at suppressing freedom of expression online.

Last year, the Constitutional Court ruled that a section of the law criminalizing “offensive communications” was unconstitutional.

Ugandan human rights lawyer Michael Aboneka said Awebwa had been charged under the same broader law which they are still challenging in court because “the law is vague”.

He told the BBC’s Newsday programme that the president and his family could expect criticism “from whatever quarter”.

“Unless they say they are going to arrest every Ugandan who criticises them on any point,” he said.

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