Uganda: Singer’s ‘pornography’ prosecution

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In February 2014, the Ugandan government implemented a new pornography law – the Anti-Pornography Act. Half a year later, in September 2014, the 20-year-old Ugandan pop singer Jemimah Kansiime published a music video for which, under the new law, she was arrested and prosecuted.

In May 2015, the story went around that world that Kansiime was facing 10 years in prison because of a music video. After five initial weeks of detention, she has stayed out of prison and today she is back making music.

After one year, Kansiime’s court case is still not concluded. No verdict has been reached, because a legal challenge to the Anti-Pornography Act was ruled on by the country’s constitutional court, and until that court case has been resolved, the criminal proceedings against Jemimah Kansiime have been suspended.

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“My rights have been trampled upon; my freedom of expression has been trampled upon.”
Jemimah Kansiime, to AFP in May 2015

Jemimah Kansiime performs as Panadol Wa’basajja, an artist name which translates as ‘Medicine for Men’.


Timeline

• February 2014: A new pornography law – the Anti-Pornography Act – takes effect in Uganda

• 23 September 2014: Panadol Wa’basajja’s music video ‘Ensolo Yange’ is published on youtube.com

• October 2014: 20-year-old Panadol Wabasajja (real name: Jemimah Kansiime) and her producer March Didi Muchwa Mugisha, 28, are arrested, charged with “wilfully and unlawfully producing, trafficking, importing, exporting, selling and abetting pornography”

• 30 October 2014: Kansiime has her first appearance in Makindye Court, where she denies the charges. She is remanded to Luzira prison til 2 December 2014.

• Also on 30 October 2014: Fellow musician and music producer Didi Mugisha appears before the same court. He voluntarily pleads guilty, is sentenced to a fine of Shs200,000 ($65 US dollars) which he accepts, after which he is released.

• 2 December 2014: After five weeks in prison, Kansiime raises the cash bail and regains her freedom as well.

• 29 January 2015: Kansiime’s trial is set to begin on this date – the first full trial under the new law. (It is not clear whether it actually started on this day or later.)

• 19 May 2015: Journalist Amy Fallon from Agence France-Presse writes that Kansiime “is due in court later this month”. This AFP article goes around the world, it is quoted and copied on over 20 leading news sites.

• 21 May 2015: Kansiime appears in court in Kampala. The case is adjourned to 9 July 2015.

• May 2015: Kansiime’s attorney Isaac Semakadde asks a magistrate’s court in Kampala to suspend criminal proceedings until a legal challenge to the Anti-Pornography Act is ruled on by the country’s constitutional court.



Sources

» Le Petit Nègre – 31 October 2015:
Podcast Episode 29 – Censure: Jemimah Kansiime

» RFI – 25 May 2015:
Uganda performer faces 10-year jail sentence under new anti-porn law

» The Guardian – 21 May 2015:
Ugandan singer faces 10 years in jail for risqué pop video

» BBC News – 21 May 2015:
Uganda musician in court

» Billboard – 21 May 2015:
Ugandan Pop Singer Faces 10 Years in Prison Over Racy Music Video

» Voices of Africa – 20 May 2015:
Porn or pop? Ugandan singer on trial for saucy music video

» The Telegraph – 20 May 2015:
Uganda wants to jail this pop star for her ‘pornographic’ video. Let’s stand up for her

» IOL – 19 May 2015:
Ugandan singer held for steamy video