Media and other human rights activists were yesterday joined by Democratic Party (DP) president in demanding the immediate release of Makerere University researcher, Dr Stella Nyanzi.
Mr Norbert Mao, the US-based Amnesty International human rights watchdog and the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) in Kampala, variously pointed out that the government’s action against Dr Nyanzi offends the constitutional right to freedom of speech.
A statement from ACME said the centre “condemns the move by the state to criminalise recent expression by Dr Stella Nyanzi.”
Dr Peter Mwesige, ACME’s executive director, said: “As a champion of journalistic excellence, ACME promotes professional journalism that tends to privilege “acceptable” language and speech, he added. “However, we are always mindful that the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by our Constitution, is in fact for all citizens not just (prof
essional) journalists,” said Dr Mwesige.
“As Justice Joseph Mulenga argued in his 2004 lead judgement in the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision on the Penal Code provision on false news, ‘…it is evident that the right to freedom of expression extends to holding, receiving and imparting all forms of opinions, ideas and information.
It is not confined to categories, such as correct opinions, sound ideas or truthful information. Subject to the limitation under Article 43, a person’s expression or statement is not precluded from the constitutional protection simply because it is thought by another or others to be false, erroneous, controversial or unpleasant. Everyone is free to express his or her views. Indeed, the protection is most relevant and required where a person’s views are opposed or objected to by society or any part thereof, as ‘false’ or ‘wrong,” Dr Mwesige quotes part of the judgement.
Mr Mao, who described Dr Nyanzi’s cause as “noble,” called for her immediate release and wants the Computer Misuse Act 2011 under which she was charged on Monday repealed by Parliament.
Amnesty International said Dr Nyanzi’s detention for criticising President Museveni and First Lady Janet Museveni was “a travesty.”
In a news statement, Mr Muthoni Wanyeki, the organisation’s regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, called for Dr Nyanzi’s unconditional release.
“Dr Nyanzi has led a campaign to ensure girls continue to attend school with dignity during their periods and, instead of commending her, the authorities have harassed, intimidated and now arrested her.”
The rights body also noted that the authorities must immediately repeal the Computer Misuse Act, “and respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right to freedom of expression of all Ugandans.”
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, has claimed responsibility for Dr Nyanzi’s arrest, and sought to distance the First Lady from the controversy.
Compiled by Shabibah Nakirigya, Ibrahim A Manzil & Joseph Kato