Tanzanian police seek website users’ identities

Cybercrime law used against whistleblower website

Police arrest an editor and raid offices of a popular East African website, Jamali forum, in an attempt to identify contributers.

Maxence Melo, the co-founder of the media outlet was released on bail after a few days, but immediately after his arrest and a raid on the Jamali offices, the Committee to Protect Journalists called for Melo’s immediate and unconditional release CPJ media release.The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) reported that he faced three charges: management of a domain not registered in Tanzania and two charges for obstruction of investigations. It also called for Melo’s release Media statement.

CIPESA reports that Maxence Melo was released on December 19, after being held at a police station in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam. He was granted an interim release with six individuals standing as surety for a bond amount of 6 million Tanzanian shillings (USD 2,700).

Tefo Mohapi the CEO of iafrica.com says the forum and whistleblower’s site has a history of exposing Tanzanian corruption.

Melo was charged under the 2015 cybercimes law which has been widely criticised because of its potentital impact on media freedom. It is currently under challenge in Tanzania’s courts as being unconstitutional. 

Melo’s lawyer, Benedict Ishabakaki, told the independent newspaper,The Citizen, that police detained his client for interrogation regarding a case which police had filed demanding his cooperation in determining the identities of several users of the online forum who have written about issues such as corruption.

The website reported that police raided its office, questioned employees about their duties, and took two additional employees, whom the website did not name, to a police station for further questioning. Jamii English coverage here.

Founded in 2006, Jamii Forum is  a popular online discussion sites, and hosts frank debates about such topics as graft in the public sector and government incompetence, mostly in Kiswahili.