Ugandan academic and activist Stella Nyanzi, who has been in jail since November 2018 for allegedly insulting President Yoweri Museveni and his late mother in a poem, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.
A Ugandan court on Friday sentenced Nyanzi for cyber-harassment, but, instead of the 18 months, she will only serve for nine months as she had spent a similar duration in remand, reports The East African.
Buganda road magistrate’s court found the former research fellow at Makerere University Research Institute guilty of disturbing the peace of President Museveni and his late mother, Ms Esteri Kokundeka in a Facebook post. She was, however, acquitted of offensive communication, the report added.
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Nyanzi, who attended Friday’s sentencing via video link against her will, exposed her breasts in protest from Luzira women’s prison, saying that the magistrate refused to listen to her pleas.
Activists have condemned the jailing of Nyanzi for cyber harassment, saying it undermined Uganda’s commitment to freedom of expression.
Human rights organization have often publicly expressed concern over the restrictions of freedom of expression and have urged the Ugandan government to call on its officials to refrain from harassing or threatening members of the media.
44-year-old Nyanzi, who has been in and out of court ever since she was detained last November, has been tried for violating the Computer Misuse Act sections on cyber-harassment and “obscene, lewd, lascivious or indecent” content production.
Nyanzi was arrested on November 2 at the Makerere University during a march to the Institute of Social Research (MISR) where she worked as a research fellow before her suspension last year. The march was in protest against the institute’s failure to reinstate her and pay all her salary arrears as ordered by a tribunal which was set up to investigate her suspension.
During the time of her suspension in 2017, the mother of three staged a nude protest outside her locked up office and posted the video and images on Facebook.
Stella Nyanzi is not new to arrests as in April 2017, she was picked up for using abusive words against the president and first lady. She called President Museveni “a pair of buttocks” and insulted the First Lady Janet Museveni who she described as incompetent in her role as minister of education.
In a letter she wrote to a friend from detention, Nyanzi said: “Writing is a weapon … We shall fight their bullets and bribes with our prose and poetry. We shall defend ourselves with our pens and keyboards.”
Nyanzi chose to remain at the Luzira prison in Kampala since last year after rejecting bail, stating that her “freedom would only be an illusion with the case still pending”.
Nyanzi is one of the most vocal critics of President Museveni who has ruled Uganda since 1986. Her posts on social media often are expletive-ridden and controversial, galvanizing the opposition and taking Museveni’s government to task on several occasions.
She was also behind #PadsforUganda, where she raised $2,115 of her $10,000 goal for school girls who are often exposed to unhygienic and embarrassing predicaments due to the lack of sanitary napkins in and out of school.