Tanzania releases comedian held over video mocking Magufuli

Thursday May 28 2020

Tanzanian authorities on Wednesday released on bail a popular comedian who was held for more than a week after posting a video of himself laughing at a photo of President John Magufuli.

Police summoned Idris Sultan, a former winner of the Big Brother Africa television series, on May 19 and questioned him over a possible violation of a law against "cyberbullying", his lawyer, Benedict Ishabakaki, told AFP on Wednesday.

Sultan was instead charged with a lesser offence related to using a SIM card registered in someone else's name, according to a charge sheet seen by AFP.

He was released after posting bail of 15 million Tanzanian shillings (more than $6,000), with a hearing scheduled for June 9.

Sultan's release comes one day after activists and opposition leaders took to Twitter demanding the case against him be thrown out.

It is not the first time Sultan has run afoul of Magufuli's government.


In October he was questioned and released after posting face-swapped photos of himself and Magufuli.

He was accused of violating Tanzania's cybercrimes legislation which prohibits using a computer to impersonate someone else, as well as sharing content with intent to "coerce, intimidate, harass or cause emotional distress".

Magufuli took office as a corruption-fighting "man of the people" but has been criticised for his authoritarian leadership style.

His government has been accused of crushing dissent, jailing critics and passing draconian laws that impinge on basic freedoms.

Magufuli has come under fire recently for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials have not provided an updated case count in nearly a month.

Critics say cases are soaring and the US embassy published an advisory earlier this month warning that hospitals in Dar es Salaam, the country's biggest city, were "overwhelmed".