Rwanda and Russia

Late in April, Rwanda’s Supreme Court struck down a law criminalizing “defamation, insults and cartooning public officials” but upheld the clause that made insulting the president a crime. (In addition, the court refused to decriminalize adultery.) Specifically,

Article 154 criminalizes “public defamation of religious rituals”, and Article 233 criminalizes “Humiliation of national authorities and persons in charge Whileof public service”, while Article 236 criminalizes “Insults or defamation against the President of the Republic”.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court nullified Articles 154 and 233 as unconstitutional but upheld 236 as constitutional…

It’s understandable that the Ugandan judges didn’t want to pick a fight with president Paul Kagame, but they declined to extend the same protection from irreverent criticism to his lieutenants.

Earlier this year, the Russian Duma made insulting state officials a misdemeanor:

[The law] bans any information shared online that is expressed in an “indecent form” and offends the “human dignity” and “public morality,” while demonstrating “obvious disrespect for society, the state, or Russia’s official state symbols, Constitution, or state agencies.”

While this law may backfire because of the Streisand effect, something extraordinary must happen for the Russian Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional.

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