The Rwandese government of Paul Kagame has outlawed the drawing of cartoons that portray politicians/leaders in an unflattering manner.
Anyone who draws such a cartoon risks imprisonment of up to two years and a fine of up to Rwf1 million ($1,145). If the cartoon targets a session of parliament or a “top ranking official,” the penalty is doubled.
Media experts say this this is a huge blow to the profession and will greatly hamper their work.
“In the trade of journalism, cartoons are by nature humorous… leaders may perceive them negatively or as humiliating even when they’re not,” Rwanda Journalists Association’s executive secretary Gonza Muganwa told Ignatius Ssuuna of The Associated Press.
Defaming Rwanda’s head of state already was illegal, bringing five to seven years in prison and a fine of $8,140.
Parliament passed the new law last month. It now awaits presidential assent before it becomes official.
In other news from Rwanda, opposition leader Victoire Umuhoza Ingabire has been released from jail after serving six years of a 15 year sentence. She was among 2,000 prisoners who received a pardon from President Kagame. Also freed was popular gospel singer and genocide survivor Kizito Mihigo, jailed in 2015 for plotting to kill President Kagame.
Flanked by her lawyer Gatera Gashabana, she told waiting reporters that her release, together with the election of two opposition parliamentarians earlier this month, were positive signs.
“We want to continue pushing for the opening up of political space and releasing of other political prisoners,” she said, adding that she is not worried should her pardon be revoked.
While thanking President Paul Kagame for her release, Ms. Ingabire said she did not “plead for mercy” but wrote to the president requesting to be freed saying she had committed no crime.
“I would also ask him to release other political prisoners who remain here,” she added.
Ingabire was convicted of inciting revolt against the government and for minimizing the 1994 genocide by including Hutus as victims.
She must report her place of residence to the prosecutor and seek authorization before leaving the country.