Cybercrime charges laid against digital activist

Maxence Melo, the founder of JamiiForums, a popular Swahili forum sometimes used by whistleblowers, was finally charged on Friday, December 16, 2016. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

Three days after being detained by police, digital activist Maxence Melo has finally been charged and his bail hearing postponed until Monday.

Police have been asking Melo to hand over user data for his website JamiiForums, a popular Swahili forum sometimes used by whistleblowers.

Melo, who already faces an obstruction charge from an ongoing court case, has been handed three more obstruction charges as well as a charge for failing to manage and use a .co.tz domain name.

The obstruction charges are filed under section 22(2) of the Cybercrimes Act, of which Melo is an outspoken critic.

“The suspect has been neglecting to abide by lawful orders of law enforcement agencies. The police force and any law enforcement agency under the law are entitled to get the information,” says Johannes Kalungura, the principal legal counsel for the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority.

Various media and human rights groups have condemned Melo’s long detention; Tanzanian law requires charges be laid within 24 hours.

“…They have failed to charge him in the court of law within the required time framework,” says Onesmo Olengurumwa of The Human Rights Defenders in Tanzania.

Editor’s note: clarification in para. 1: bail hearing not denied as in earlier version, just postponed until Monday.

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About the Author

Daniel Hayduk

Daniel is Dar Post’s news director. When not in the newsroom, he spends his days helping NGOs across the continent find their creative side.

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