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Tanzania: ‘Social media has brought power back to the people’ says Jamii Forums founder

By Abdul Halim, Dar es Salaam

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Posted on June 21, 2021 17:10

52417050_2207148126008253_3343721817637388288_n © Maxence Melo, founder of Photo: Facebook/@melo.maxence
Maxence Melo, founder of Photo: Facebook/@melo.maxence

Things have changed for the better – so far – under Tanzania’s new President Samia Suluhu Hassan, but it’s too early to say for sure, says Maxence Melo, founder of Jamii Forums. Tanzanian laws that suppress digital space must be repealed he tells The Africa Report.

Maxence Melo is well known in Tanzania for championing digital rights and freedom of expression. As the founder and executive director of the country’s most popular digital platform,, he has received recognition both at home and abroad for his efforts in demanding accountability using the digital space.

Maxence has been arrested and charged several times, appearing in court 152 times in the past five years, with authorities pushing him to reveal identities of whistle-blowers on JamiiForums. Despite this, Tanzanians still express themselves on his platform without fear.

In an exclusive interview with The Africa Report conducted in Swahili and English, Maxence speaks about Tanzania’s draconian laws that continue to criminalise participation in the digital space. He also he speaks about how his platform is determined to protect whistle-blowers and courageous citizens online.

This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

The Africa Report: How can you describe the freedom of expression in the social media space now since President Magufuli is gone?

Maxence Melo: Five to six years ago, we started witnessing the shrinkage of civic space in Tanzania and attacks on freedom of expression. [President John] Magufuli’s administration fuelled it and things [got] even worse. As a country, we have been through difficult times, but ever since we got the sixth president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, she has made it clear that the media should not be banned and people should be free to speak.

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