Making fun of politicians officially a crime in Rwanda

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In a law that took effect on Thursday, drawing cartoons or producing content that is deemed to humiliate a government official, is now effective.

“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,” New Zealand news site Stuff reported the law as saying.

Journalists say that this law will greatly impact on how they are able to ensure that public officials are held to account. It was not immediately clear if this applied to postings on social media.

The penalty for breaking the law for a cartoonist is up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $1 145 (more than R16 000). If a member of parliament or top-ranking official is the target, the penalty is doubled.

Defaming the country’s head of state has already been criminalised, bringing a five to seven year prison sentence and an $8 140 (more than R120 000).

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