By our reporter
A law which took effect in Rwanda last week, banning the drawing of cartoons targeting government officials has drawn mixed reactions from across the globe.
According to the law, a cartoon that insults or defames President Paul Kagame attracts seven years in prison and a fine of FRW7 million (Shs31,000,000).
A cartoon that insults national authorities and persons in charge of public service attracts 2 years in prison and a fine of (FRW1m.
The law, according to Kigali-based journalist Ignatius Ssuuna, will greatly affect work that is meant to hold public officials, including Cabinet members and security officers, to account.
“Any person who, verbally, by gestures or threats, in writings or cartoons, humiliates a member of parliament when exercising his/her mandate, a member of the Cabinet, security officers or any other person in charge of a public service in the performance or in connection with the performance of his/her duties, commits an offence,” the law says.
But according to Jean Claude Mazimpaka, a social activist, the ‘new law makes no sense.’
Already, we have been living with the fact that talking about the President was illegal. One can easily be jailed for about seven years for defaming the president. Now this? It is tough times ahead, especially for journalists,” he told WatchdogUganda via telephone from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.
According to Suuna, the Rwanda Journalists Association’s executive secretary, Gonza Muganwa, said the group would seek legal interpretations and advise members accordingly.
“In the trade of journalism, cartoons are by nature humorous and therefore easy for leaders to perceive them negatively or as humiliating even when it’s not,” Muganwa said.