Friday, July 12, 2024

Tanzanian artist convicted for burning president’s picture freed

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Isaac Kaledzi
Isaac Kaledzi
Isaac Kaledzi is an experienced and award winning journalist from Ghana. He has worked for several media brands both in Ghana and on the International scene. Isaac Kaledzi is currently serving as an African Correspondent for DW.

The young Tanzanian portrait artist who was convicted of cybercrimes for burning a picture of President Samia Suluhu Hassan has been released from prison.

Social media users have raised more than $2,000 (£1,600) needed to pay his fine to pave way for his release.

They used X, formerly Twitter to raise the said amount in six hours following an uproar over the conviction.

Last week, Shadrack Chaula was ordered by a court to pay the fine or face two years in prison after he admitted recording a video that went viral on social media, showing him burning a picture of President while insulting her.

Police said they arrested him for using “strong words” against President Samia in the TikTok video he recorded in Ntokela village near the south-western city of Mbeya.

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When he appeared in court last Thursday, Mr Chaula was charged with spreading false information about the president, contravening the country’s cybercrime laws.

The court ruled that his actions constituted cyber-harassment and incitement after he admitted to the crime.

Mr. Chaula has since expressed his gratitude for the payment of his fine.

“Thank you very much fellow Tanzanians for coming to my rescue,” Mr Chaula told journalists shortly after his release.

In an Instagram post, activist Godlisten Malisa, who coordinated the fund-raising that Mr Chaula was given the remaining $100 to support his artwork.

He added that the contributions were a “lesson” for the government.

Mr. Chaula said despite the fact that many Tanzanians were “burdened” by the high cost of living, they came to Mr Chaula’s aid, he said.

On his part, lawyer Peter Kibatala said social media users did not only secure Mr Chaula’s release but also freedom of expression.

The prosecution had pushed for a more severe penalty, saying this was necessary to deter others from “disrespecting” the president.

In 2018, Tanzania enacted tough laws against the spread of “fake news”, which critics saw as a move to curb freedom of expression.

After she came to power in 2021, President Samia introduced reforms to give political parties and civic groups more freedom.

But opposition and rights groups have expressed concern that the government is sliding back to more repressive ways.



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