Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization focused on human rights wants the Tanzanian government to throw out charges against comedian Idris Sultan.
Idris was first arrested on May 19 after filming himself laughing at a throwback photo of President John Magufuli.
After spending more than a week behind bars with no charges being brought forward, the funny man was arraigned before a Kisutu Resident Magistrate.
Then, the Big Brother Africa winner was then charged with failure to register a SIM card previously owned by another person and failure to report change of ownership of a SIM card under the under the repressive Electronic and Postal Communications Act 2010 (Sim Card Registration) Regulations 2020 and amended Electronic and Postal Communications Act 2010.
He was released on Sh69000 bail.
According to Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, the state has no case against the comedian and is just looking to harass him.
“These charges are politically motivated and must be immediately dropped. It is a travesty that Idris Sultan is being subjected to judicial persecution simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression. Laughing is not a crime. Criminalising one’s humour is a new low in Tanzania’s unrelenting clampdown on freedom of expression,” Mr Muchena said.
“It is evident that the Tanzanian authorities do not have a case against Idris Sultan and are simply out to harass him because his humour offended them. The court must throw out the trumped-up charges against him.”
Since taking office in November 2015, Magufuli has been accused of using repressive laws to silence his critics.
Under his leadership, depicted as authoritarian, Tanzania has enacted strict laws on cyber crimes and “media services.”
The laws allow authorities to suspend media outlets and charge journalists with sedition for publishing information deemed a threat to peace, false, or even just misleading.
But authorities argue that the laws are meant to minimize a abuse of media.