Cartooning for Peace / Alert Tanzania – Opptertus Fwema

Alert Tanzania – Opptertus Fwema

Update – 23 September 2022

JOINT STATEMENT

Cartoonist Opptertus Fwema discharged by court but immediately rearrested within court corridors.

Cartooning for Peace (CFP), Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI), Creative Industry Network Tanzania, and Africartoons deplore the harassment of cartoonist Opptertus Fwema.

After being unjustly arrested and illegally detained for a cartoon he drew, cartoonist Opptertus Fwema’s trial was postponed several times, denying him justice in that process. Eventually, on September 20th, he was discharged by court after the prosecution entered Nolle Prosequi under section 91(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act CAP 20 R.E 2022, indicating that they had no intention of pursuing the charges against Oppertus and confirming our belief that the charges held against him had no credibility.

After being unjustly arrested and illegally detained for a cartoon he drew, cartoonist Opptertus Fwema’s trial was postponed several times, denying him justice in that process. Eventually, on September 20th, he was discharged by court after the prosecution entered Nolle Prosequi under section 91(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act CAP 20 R.E 2022, indicating that they had no intention of pursuing the charges against Oppertus and confirming our belief that the charges held against him had no credibility.

We express our concern and dismay at this latest development, which reflects an unjustified persecution of a cartoonist whose only crime was the execution of his job. We call for an immediate halt to this prosecution in keeping with the fundamental principles of freedom of expression as asserted in the Arusha Declaration on World Press Freedom Day, 2022.

We remind Mrs. Samia Suluhu Hassan, the President of the Republic of Tanzania promise made in her Arusha speech to “protect journalists and open more space for freedom of expression and media”; a promise echoed by the Minister of Information, Communication and Information Technology, M. Nape Nnauye, who said; “The Ministry will continue to defend journalists and press freedom in Tanzania and Africa”. We urge the Government of Tanzania to diligently work towards a better, safe and free working environment for cartoonists in Tanzania.

 

Update – 9 September 2022

On the 31st of August 2022, a prosecution witness was to be heard in the case relating to the publication of Opptertus Fwema’s cartoon. However, due to the inability of the prosecution to present a witness, the hearing was adjourned again.

As counted by Cartooning for Peace, this is the 8th postponement of the hearing since the beginning of the proceedings. Faced with these multiple postponements and the inability of the prosecution to call the witness, Opptertus Fwema’s lawyer, Shilinde Sweddy, requested the proceedings to be dismissed. By decision of the judge, a final adjournment is set for the 12th of September 2022 and if the prosecution fails to appear, the case will be closed.

Any further adjournment of the trial would legitimise the dismissal of the case and the nullity of the charges. However, it should not obscure the fact that the cartoonist’s rights were violated during his arrest as he was held in police custody for more than 5 days without bail.


Update – 8 October 2021

 

Cartooning for Peace welcomes the news of the release on bail of Optatus Fwema this Friday 8 October. According to his defence lawyer, Mr Shilinde Swedy, the parole hearing initially scheduled for Monday 11 October for Bail Hearing Application at Kisutu court finally took place this Friday at the resident magistrates court of Kivukoni at Kinondoni after he was read with the charge of publishing false Information contrary to Section 16 of the Cyber Crimes Act CAP 14 R.E 2015.

Cartooning for Peace will continue to follow the case, hoping that the cartoonist, who was arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned for nearly two weeks for “a simple satirical drawing of the country’s leader” (see RSF press release), will be quickly acquitted.

See CPJ press release


04 October 2021

Tanzania alert – Cartooning for Peace condemns the arrest and imprisonment of cartoonist Optatus Fwema for cartoon.

On 4 October, the East African Cartoonists’ Society, Katuni, issued a statement informing of the arrest and imprisonment of cartoonist Optatus Fwema at Oysterbay police station, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It was followed by the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC).

Arrested at his home on 23 September and interrogated without any legal representation for cyber offences for a cartoon posted on his social media, he is still in prison today, well beyond the 48 hours of custody allowed by law. According to Katuni‘s statement, he has been denied bail. Since Yesterday, he is defended by a lawyer from the THRDC and will be presented in court tomorrow, 5 October 2021.

The cartoon depicts the current and 6th President of the Republic, Samia Suluhu, as a child hitting the water in a basin with the colours of the flag. With his back to her, the 4th President of the Republic, Jakaya Kikwete (renamed Kiwete – the crippled one – on the back of his suit) addresses the population: “She ensures a good leadership of the country”. According to the interpretation given to Cartooning for Peace by an observer, the cartoon is meant to criticise the current president’s poor management of the country and the previous president’s effort to protect her, who is seen by many as her mentor. The joke about his name also tends to ironise his management of the country’s affairs when he was president.

 

Cartooning for Peace condemns the arrest and joins the demands for the immediate release of Katuni and the THRDC. Indeed, the imprisonment of the cartoonist for a satirical cartoon without any apparent reason is illegal. Tanzania is ranked 124th in 2021 RSF’s press freedom index.

See KATUNI’s Statement:PRESS STATEMENT ON OPTIPUS FWEMA (2)

See the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition’s statement (THRDC):STATEMENT CONDEMNING ARREST AND DETENTION OF CARTOONIST

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