Was Comedian Idris Sultan Arrested for Laughing at President Magufuli’s Old Photo?

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The screenshot above is from a video posted by Tanzanian comedian and former Big Brother Africa winner Idris Sultan laughing at an old picture of the Tanzanian president.

Background

Since Tanzania’s fifth president assumed office in 2015, there’ve been concerns have been expressed over his government’s hard handling of government critics especially renowned personalities such as artists, journalists and even opposition politicians. This has resulted in widespread arrests and rumours that his tough stance could have played a hand in the 2017 disappearance of Azory Gwanda, a Tanzanian journalist and government critic.

Verification

Idris Sultan was arrested after posting a video where he appears to be laughing at an old photo of President John Magufuli.

The video was posted as a throwback (TBT) funny video to his followers on Thursday, May 14th.  His lawyer, Benedict Ishabakaki talking to the BBC on 20th May, said that Sultan was charged with cyberbullying for laughing at the president. An article by The Standard further quoted the lawyer saying that Sultan was denied bail by the police claiming they needed him in custody while they followed up on leads.

The arrest led to an uproar on Twitter with people demanding his release and criticizing the governments hard stance on creatives. The hashtag #FreeIdrisSultan trended in Tanzania for the better part of Tuesday, May 19.

Idris had earlier on been arrested for editing an image in which he swapped faces with the president. The comedian went on to say that his intentions were misjudged as he was only wishing the president a happy birthday.

Human rights bodies and advocacy groups such as the CPJ have raised concerns on the Tanzanian government over numerous arrests and accusations of sedition among other vague offences which it views as not only being meant to stifle government criticism but an infringement on human rights.

Verdict

Idris Sultan was indeed arrested and charged under Tanzania’s repressive Cybercrime Act for bullying the president. Tongue-in-cheek as the reasons behind his being behind bars may appear, these claims are TRUE.

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Moffin Njoroge

Moffin is passionate about data and strives to find patterns, stories and leads by analyzing and interpreting datasets.