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TikToker Sentenced to Six Years for Insulting Ugandan President

A Ugandan court has sentenced 24-year-old TikToker Edward Awebwa to six years in prison for insulting President Yoweri Museveni, First Lady Janet Museveni, and their son Muhoozi Kainerugaba in a TikTok video. The charges against Awebwa included hate speech and spreading “misleading and malicious” information about the first family, according to the BBC.

President of Uganda

Awebwa’s video included allegations of rising taxes under President Museveni’s administration. Despite pleading guilty and asking for forgiveness, the presiding magistrate, Stella Maris Amabilis, cited Awebwa’s lack of remorse and the vulgar nature of his language in her sentencing.

“The accused deserves a punishment which will enable him to learn from his past so that next time he will respect the president, the first lady, and the first son,” said Magistrate Amabilis. Awebwa was sentenced to six years for each of the four charges, to be served concurrently. The case has attracted attention from rights groups, who frequently criticize Ugandan authorities for human rights violations and curbing freedom of expression.

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In a similar incident, award-winning author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was charged in 2022 with “offensive communication” after making unflattering remarks about the president and his son on Twitter. Rukirabashaija fled to Germany after a month in jail, claiming he was tortured.

Activist and writer Stella Nyanzi, who is also in exile, faced imprisonment after publishing a critical poem about President Museveni. President Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, signed a law against hate speech in 2022. Rights groups argue this law is designed to suppress online freedom of speech. While the constitutional court later ruled a section of the law penalizing “offensive communication” unconstitutional, Awebwa was charged under the broader law, which is still under challenge.

Ugandan human rights lawyer Michael Aboneka argued that the president and his family should expect criticism from the public. “Unless they are saying that they are going to arrest every Ugandan for criticizing them at every point,” Aboneka told BBC Newsday.

Chidalu Glory

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