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Rwanda: Five Online Practices That May Land You in Jail


Nearly two million Rwandans use internet and the number keeps growing, according to the fift Population and Housing Census conducted in 2022

Also, a 2020 report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) showed that internet users in Rwanda spend 7.1 per cent of their average income on mobile data.

However, as the uptake keeps increasing, there are a number of practices that can get any user in trouble with the laws but can be avoided.

Here are some of the online practices that, according to the 2018 Law on prevention and punishment of cybercrimes, can attract punishment.

1. Taking pictures, videos without consent and displaying them in bad faith

Article 35 of the law says that any person who intentionally uses a computer or a computer system to harass or threaten with the intent to place another person in distress or fear through displaying, distributing or publishing indecent documents, sounds, pictures or videos commits a crime.

In addition, if a person takes pictures, videos or sounds in bad faith and without consent or knowledge of those who are being photographed or recorded, and displays or distributes information in a manner that substantially increases the risk of harm or violence to any other person; commits an offence.

Upon conviction, the offender is liable to an imprisonment term that is not more than two years and a fine that can amount to Rwf2 million.

The prosecution of offenses under the article are instituted only upon complaint of the offended person.

2. Publishing indecent information

Publishing indecent information in electronic form is also something that can put you in trouble and can attract imprisonment for a term that can reach up to two years and a fine that can amount to Rwf2 million upon conviction.

According to Innocent Muramira, a Kigali-based lawyer, indecent messages may relate to erotic messages, or very offensive communications that may cause harm to children or even adults.

Such messages, according to Muramira can include those that encourage people commit suicide.

When the indecent message is not true or is directed against a child, the offender is liable to imprisonment for a term that is between three to five years, and a fine that can reach to Rwf3 million.

3. Publication of rumours

“Any person who, knowingly and through a computer or a computer system, publishes rumours that may incite fear, insurrection or violence amongst the population or that may make a person lose their credibility, commits an offence,” article 39 of the law says.

Upon conviction, the offender faces a jail term that ranges between three years to five years and a fine between Rwf1 million and 3million.

4. Impersonation

Intentionally using somebody else’s identity over the internet in bad faith to profit, mislead or destroy their reputation can attract a punishment of imprisonment for a term of not less than three years and not more than five years upon conviction.

This offence is punished with a jail term between three and five years and a fine that may amount to Rwf3 million.

5. Phishing and spamming

A person who establishes and uses a website or sends electronic messages using a computer or a computer system in order to have access to confidential information from a visitor of the website or recipient of the message with intent to use them for unlawful purposes, especially for the purpose of stealing money or obtaining access to a computer or a computer system, commits an offence, the law says in its 36th article.