THRDC CONGRATULATES MINISTER OF INFORMATION FOR LIFTING THE BAN OF NEWSPAPERS IN TANZANIA

BY SPECIAL REPORTER

THE Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) vehemently congratulates Hon.Nape Moses Nnauye, Minister of Information, Communication, and Information Technology for lifting the ban and issuing new license to four newspapers including Mseto, Mawio, MwanaHalisi and Tanzania Daima newspapers. 

In a statement issued by the THRDC Public Relations Officer today 10th, February 2022 in Dar es Salaam, Hon.Nape Nnauye has a promising record of defending media freedoms in Tanzania. 

"We further, congratulate the Minister for his promise and willingness to engage the media stakeholders to discuss on the amendments to the Media Services Act of 2016. The hon. minister has lifted the ban of the aforesaid newspapers today when addressing the information editors’ meeting organized by Uongozi Institute and Tanzania Editors Forum (TFF),"the statement reads in part.

The Ban of Mseto Newspaper

According to theTHRDC,Mseto newspaper was banned on 10th August 2016 a week after it published a story about high level corruption involving an Assistant Minister in the Tanzanian government. 

"It was banned pursuant to a law that gave the Minister of Information, the power to ban a publication where he is of the opinion that it was in “the public interest, or in the interest of peace and good order so to do”.

"However, mseto newspaper challenged such a ban before the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) on 7th October 2016, arguing that the order infringed the right to freedom of expression and press freedom and, therefore, violated the fundamental and operational principles under Articles 6(d), 7(2) and 8(1)(c) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community (EAC Treaty).

"EACJ declared that a Ministerial order banning mseto newspaper violated the rights to freedom of expression and press freedom and Tanzania was, therefore, in breach of the EAC Treaty.

The court further ruled that the Minister had acted unreasonably, unlawfully, and disproportionately by imposing the ban “whimsically” and based on his own opinion. It ordered the Minister to annul the order and allow the newspaper to resume publication,"the statement reads in part.

Ban of Mawio Newspaper

Mawio newspaper was banned for 24 months from 15th June 2017 with the government suspending both its print edition and online platforms. 

According to the THRDC, it was suspended for publishing the photos of two former presidents Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete on its 15th – 21st June edition and linking them to a government probe into allegations of misconduct in the mining sector.

"Mawio newspaper successfully challenged the ban before the High Court of Tanzania. On 13th December 2018 Hon. Judge Benhajj S. Masoud ruled that the order by the Minister of Information was illegal and irrational. Concluding that the paper had been banned without a proper and fair hearing, Judge Masoud quashed aside the government’s order of banning the newspaper,"the statement reads in part.

Ban of MwanaHalisi newspaper

MwanaHalisi newspaper was banned for two years, starting from 19th September 2017, on allegations of unethical reporting and endangering national security, regarding a published story asking, 'whom should Tanzanians pray for, the President or Tundu Lissu? a Tanzanian lawyer and opposition politician. 

"The article called for prayers for Hon. Lissu who had been shot several times by unidentified assailants in his stomach and legs on 7 September 2017,"the statement reads in part.

Cancellation of Tanzania Daima’s License

Tanzania Daima’s license was cancelled from operation on 23rd June 2020. Its licence was cancelled allegedly for breaching different laws of the country and operating against ethics of journalism. 

However, the laws that were alleged to be breached were not disclosed. The cancellation was made pursuant to section 6 (b) of the Media Services Act, 2016. The section gives discretionary powers to the director of information to cancel the licence where the licensee fails to comply with the terms and condition prescribed in the licence.

"THRDC welcomes these efforts and engagements from the ministry. Lifting the ban of newspaper is an enhancement of peoples’ access to information and freedom of expression. It is also an indication of complying with the right to freedom of expression, peoples’ access to information as guaranteed under article 18 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977 and international human rights instruments,"the statement reads in part.

Mr. Saed Ahmed Kubenea, the managing director of Mawio and Mseto newspapers while addressing the Minister, has requested for financial support from the government to private media outlets, he said, “...we are pleased for the license,... the government should find alternative means of supporting the private media outlets (like issuing subsidies)..., the economic situation of private media outlets is very bad, the lifted newspapers may not resume their operations because of economic crisis, despite of being issued with the new license”

Amendments of the Laws

It should be remembered that sixteen provisions of the Media Services Act were successfully challenged by the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Media Council of Tanzania, Legal and Human Rights Centre at EACJ in 2019. Such provisions give enormous powers to the Minister. banning media outlets. Provisions challenged were Section 7 (3) (a), (b), (c), (f), (g), (h), (i) and (j), 13,14,19,20, 21, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 50, 52, 53, 54,58 and 59 through reference no 02 of 2017.

Through the decision issued by EACJ on 28th March 2019, the government of Tanzania was ordered to amend sixteen provisions of the Media Services Act to be in line with the international standards on freedom of expression.

THRDC humbly requests the ministry to amend all restrictive laws, Regulations which are the bar to freedom of expression and access to information in Tanzania. 

Such laws are the Cybercrimes Act of 2015, the Media Services Act of 2016, the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content Regulations) of 2020 etc. 

The government may call media stakeholders and convene a meeting for discussing proposals for amending the media restrictive laws.

"THRDC is pleased by the efforts taken by the minister, it is the right time for the government to amend all restrictive laws and regulations affecting freedom of expression and those which hinder free access to information,"the statement reads in part.

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