Uganda:  Misuse of defamation law sees recording duo charged for offensive communication against President Museveni

Summary

Tuesday 5th December saw music collaborators, David Mugema and his producer Jonah Muwanguzi charged with an act of offensive communication against the Ugandan President.

Mr. Mugema was charged for allegedly composing, recording, producing and disseminating through social media a song titled ‘Wumula’. This act of artistic production is alleged to run contrary to provisions in the Computer Misuse Act, which appears to suggest that the artists attacked and disturbed the peace of President Museveni.

“These charges are not only a big blow to artistic expression in Uganda but they also have a chilling effect on freedom of expression generally”, said Henry Maina, of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.

Arrest and intimidation of artists for exercising their right to freedom of expression is an act of undue censorship and is unconstitutional. This latest act of intimidation took place at a time when the country is experiencing heated constitutional exchanges about the presidential age limit.

Charged under sections 25 and 21 of the Computer Misuse Act of 2011, Mugema and Muwanguzi were held in detention overnight, and released the following day after being granted a cash bail of 1m Uganda Shillings against a surety of 10m.

The offence carries a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment upon conviction

Uganda has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Under the ICCPR (Article 19 (3)) any limitation to freedom of expression must be prescribed by law, pursue a legitimate aim and be necessary and proportionate.

We note that the provisions relied upon are unnecessary and disproportionate.

ARTICLE 19 therefore calls upon the government of Uganda to immediately drop all charges against the defendants and urges the government to review the Computer Misuse Act of 2011 to ensure that it conforms to its own international human rights obligations .

For media interviews, please contact: Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, [email protected]

 

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