Ugandan academic Dr Stella Nyanzi has been convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for ‘cyber harassment’, reported Pen International.
She was sentenced to jail on 2 August 2019 but was acquitted of the charge of ‘offensive communication.’
“Dr Stella Nyanzi expressed her own beliefs and thoughts through Facebook. Charging and sentencing her for exercising the right to freedom of expression violates and undermines the basic human rights that she is entitled to,” said Freemuse’s Programme Manager, Delphine Pawlik.
Freemuse calls for an immediate release of Dr Nyanzi and for the Ugandan government to adapt and commit to freedom of expression obligations according to international human rights law.
The charges of ‘cyber harassment’ and ‘offensive communication’ under sections 24 and 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011 relate to a poem that Nyanzi published on Facebook criticizing Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.
In the post in question, Nyanzi said she wished President Museveni had been “burned up by the ‘acidic pus’ in his mother’s birth canal”, reported Al Jazeera.
According to BBC, activists condemn this verdict against Dr Stella Nyanzi and are accusing the Ugandan government of using laws about electronic communications to suppress political dissent.
While digital harassment is an important subject, it should have not been used in the instance of silencing Dr Stella Nyanzi’s artistic freedom of expression.
To read Freemuse’s stand on cyber harassment read Privatising Censorship, Digitising Violence: Shrinking Space of Women’s Rights to Create in the Digital Age.