Public prosecutor Baraka Mgaya alleged before presiding magistrate Michael Mteite that the accused, Ester Kapona, committed the offence of composing and distributing a very offensive message directed at the head of state on January 30 this year.
The charge sheet read that although Kapona did not mention the target of her message by name, by implication it was aimed at President Magufuli.
Kapona refused to enter a plea, but asked to be granted bail, a request which the prosecution opposed.
“If released on bail, the accused person is likely to tamper with the evidence,” Mgaya argued before the court, adding that such freedom could also affect the victim of the message distributed by the defendant.
The court subsequently denied the bail request and Kapona was therefore sent back to remand prison until February 22 when the case comes up for its next mention.
This is the second case brought in Mbeya Region under the Electronic and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) of 2010.
In November last year, a member of the opposition CHADEMA party, Ezekia Mwaifunga, was arraigned and convicted of posting a similarly offensive message directed at President Magufuli. Mwaifunga was sent to prison for two years without option of a fine.
Many other people have been charged with the same offence under the EPOCA law in different parts of the country. In September last year, five people appeared before the Kisutu resident magistrate’s court in Dar es Salaam, also accused insulting President Magufuli on social media.
The five - Dennis Temu, Suleiman Nassoro, Shakira Makame, Juma Mtatuu, and Dennis Mtegwa - all denied the charges.
Section 118 (a) of the EPOCA law states that: "Any person who by means of any network facilities, network services, applications services or content services, knowingly makes,
creates or solicits or initiates the transmission of any comment, request, suggestion or other communication which is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person commits an offence."
According to the state-run Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), the number of Internet users in the country soared 52 per cent to 17.26 million last year, compared to 2014.