The head of Oxfam International Mrs. Winnie Byanyima has come out in defense of jailed Makerere University academic Dr Stella Nyanzi, who is facing charges related to insulting President Yoweri Museveni and his later mother Esteri Kokundeka.
Mrs Byanyima says Dr Nyanzi shouldn’t have been imprisoned for what is considered as insults posted on social media.
Nyanzi was yesterday charged with two counts of cyber harassment and offensive communication, in which the prosecution claims she had an intention of disturbing the peace of President Yoweri Museveni.
According to prosecution, she posted on her Facebook wall on September 16th, wishing that the late Kokundeka’s “cursed vaginal canal had burnt up the president’s unborn foetus.”
Mrs Byanyima in a tweet this morning, said government couldn’t imprison everybody that uses social media to insult others.
“If everyone who insults another person was jailed, how many Ugandans would be out working? How many prisons would we need?” Byanyima said, adding that there are better ways handling abusive people on social media.
“What Stella writes on Social Media may be offensive, vulgar, shocking, irritating to you. Press ‘Block’”.
“The rest of us press ‘block’ when we are offended. Why doesn’t (Museveni) try the same? It is excessive to lock up someone for an offensive post,” Byanyima tweeted earlier following Nyanzi’s arrest.
The Oxfam boss, who has worked for the most part of her career as a women’s rights activist, went on to describe Dr Nyanzi as one “on the frontline of the struggle for human rights and democracy in Uganda.”
“She is testing the rules for their fairness to ordinary people. We see clearly that rules are used to protect the powerful & to silence those who want to hold them to account.”
Nyanzi yesterday was remanded to Luzira Prison, after she told court she was not interested in applying for bail. She said she intended to stay in Luzira Prison to teach the women there how to use Facebook.