President Museveni has warned that no one should ever be arrested over charges related to annoying the person of the President.
A number of people including journalist-turned pastor Joseph Kabuleta have been arrested for insulting and annoying the President.
Responding to a question from journalists on Thursday during a press conference at the Nakasero state Lodge, Museveni said the charge is archaic and was used by colonial masters against Ugandans.
“I don’t mind being annoyed. I have no problem with being annoyed. That was a colonial charge that I used to hear about,”Museveni said.
He said that the bigger charge should be sedition and inciting the public that the said the police should put much focus on, rather than the charge of annoying the President.
“The bigger issue is telling lies, inciting and sedition. Those are the areas of substance that police should concentrate on.”
He said he would talk to police to see they concentrate on bigger issues.
At least 10 people have either been arrested or arraigned in court and charged with annoying the person of the President.
Former Makerere University research fellow, Dr.Stella Nyanzi is currently waiting for judgment in a matter in which he is accused of annoying President Museveni through a post she made on her Facebook page in which he criticized the President and members of the first family.
Judgment to be delivered by Buganda Road grade one Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu is to be delivered on August 1, 2019.
Five directors and three editors of the Pepper Publications Group were in 2017 arrested and detained at Nalufenya detention center in Jinja district for among other charges disturbing the peace of President Museveni, security minister Henry Tumukunde and Gen. Salim Saleh.
The directors included Arinaitwe Rugyendo, Johnson Musinguzi, Patrick Mugumya , Richard Tusiime, and James Mujuni whereas the editors were Ben Byarabaha (Managing Editor), Richard Kintu (News Editor) and Francis Tumusiime (also News Editor).
The charges related to a story published in the Red Pepper about the Uganda and Rwanda relations titled “M7 plotting to overthrow Kagame – Rwanda” on November 20, 2017.
Joseph Kabuleta was the latest victim of the charge of annoying the President when he was arrested by plain-clothed security operatives at Lugogo on Friday and detained at the Special Investigations Division in Kireka.
Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga last week said Kabuleta had been arrested for ridiculing President Museveni on social media by referring to him as a thief and gambler.
“According to preliminary information, the writer (Kabuleta) posted grossly offensive messages, under “Joseph Kabuleta Weekly Rant Returns” referring to the fountain of honor as a “Gambler, Thief and Liar”. Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act, 2011 criminalizes such acts of communication,”Enanga said.
Kabuleta was however released on police bond after spending four days in detention.
Section 24 of the Penal Code Act stipulates that it is an offense to alarm or annoy or ridicule the President and the maximum punishment for one found guilty of this offense is imprisonment for life.
A number of those for allegedly annoying the person of the President have fell victim due to their posts made on social media, especially on facebook.
These have also been charged with offensive communication and cyber harassment according to the Computer Misuse Act 2011.
Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act, 2011 says that person who wilfully and repeatedly uses electronic communication to disturb or attempts to disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication whether or not a conversation ensues commits a misdemeanor and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 24 currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.
Twenty four currency points is equivalent to Shs480,000.
A report released in January by the Unwanted Witness, a local based civil society organization accused government of continued efforts to stifle internet freedoms using the Computer Misuse Act of 2011.
“The now notorious cyber law has been widely and repeatedly evoked to arrest, detain and interrogate journalists, activists, bloggers, human rights defenders and opposition politicians in the bid to gang dissent, stifle freedom of speech, and generally violate digital rights,” the report titled, ‘The state of digital rights in Uganda released in January’, said.
“Just like sedition, the Computer Misuse Act, 2011 is used to perpetually keep victims in and out of either police or courtrooms since none of the cases has ever been conclusively determined. Section 25 of the Act has been a potent weapon.”
The Uganda Law Society also petitioned the Constitutional Court challenging seeking to have sections 24 and 25 of the Computer Misuse Act of 2011 declared null and void.
“The impugned sections are inconsistent with articles 29(1) (a) and article 43(2) (c) of the Constitution in so far as they restrict the freedom of speech and of expression and the restrictions in the impugned sections are not demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society,” Uganda Law Society said in their petition early this year.
The lawyers’ body argued that the rights to artistic and freedom of speech and of expression are unduly restricted by the sections of the act that they say demands the use of polite language in all publications done through electronic media.