A Tanzanian Man Has Been Arrested for ‘Insulting’ the Country’s Leader on WhatsApp

A Tanzanian Man Has Been Arrested for ‘Insulting’ the Country’s Leader on WhatsApp

By Tom Pritchard on 26 Sep 2016 at 7:30PM

Have you ever popped onto social media to have a go at the Prime Minister? Well be thankful you don’t live in Tanzania, because those whacky shenanigans might land you in trouble with the law. Even if you don’t necessarily broadcast your views in public.

Tanzanian law enforcement have charged five men with insulting the country’s leader, President John Magufuli, and one of them is accused of insulting the president in a WhatsApp discussion group. The other four were also charged with using Facebook and WhatsApp to try and turn people against the local police.

Obviously this is a pretty obvious crackdown on free speech, but as you would expect the official reason is totally different. The five men, who are out on bail having denied all charges, were arrested thanks to a new cybercrime law designed to punish anyone who posts misleading or false information online. In reality the law is mainly being used to crack down on political dissent.

So what exactly did the five men say to get themselves in trouble? Dennis Mtegwa, the man charged with insulting the president on WhatsApp, was questioning President Magufuli’s treatment of political opposition as “an enemy”. The other four were critical of police who were more focused on the opposition, instead of actually solving crimes. Both pretty reasonable topics of discussion really.

Let’s all be thankful that’s not the case here. Next time you make jokes about a former PM having inappropriate relations with a farmyard animal, the worst you’re going to have to deal with are a few angry comments. Not the prospect of being thrown in prison.

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