John Magufuli

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Tanzanian politician arrested for 'insulting' president

Sammy Awami

BBC Africa, Dar es Salaam

President John Magufuli
AFP
The president has come under criticism for his alleged attempts to curb the freedom of expression

A senior leader of a Tanzanian opposition party has been arrested for insulting President John Magufuli.

He’s the latest in a line of several citizens and politicians who have been detained on similar charges.

Posting a question “Who is the President, really?” on his Facebook page was enough to get Julius Mtatiro arrested.

Police detained him as they found this phrase offensive to the president. They went on to search Mr Mtatiro’s home for the device used to post on social media.

Mr Mtatiro had reposted in solidarity with a young man in North Western Tanzania, who originally raised the question on his Facebook page and himself got arrested three days ago.

Rights activists have been criticising the Tanzanian authorities for suppressing free speech.

But the government says unlimited freedom of expression may result into a breach of peace.

For more on concerns over free speech in Tanzania see:

Magufuli's Easter greetings to church critics

John Magufuli
Getty Images
Critics say President Magufuli has become authoritarian

The spokesperson for Tanzanian President John Magufuli says the government has nothing to say in response to strong criticism of Mr Magufuli's leadership by the country's bishops.

A tweet (in Kiswahili) said that the only thing they will say is to wish all Christians a Happy Easter:

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The church leaders had warned that Tanzania's unity and peace are under threat.

A statement from the influential Conference of Lutheran Bishops criticised the government - condemning recent kidnappings, attacks on political leaders and the use of violence to break up opposition protests.

The government has closed down critical media outlets in recent months. The bishops warned that freedom of expression was under threat.

In December, the government said it would take action against religious organisations that interfered in politics.

Mr Magufuli took office in 2015 with a tough anti-corruption stance, but his detractors say his authoritarian leadership style amounts to a clampdown on opposition and freedom of expression.

How much does an African president earn?
Tanzania's President John Magufuli has made his salary public, but how does it compare to others?