Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tanzania's Parliament Rejects Media Censorship Bill

Tanzania's Media Confronts Government (Pic. courtesy RSF)


The media and human rights activists expressed relief that the National Assembly of Tanzania had rejected a bill on November 8 that would have increased fines for offences such as “publishing false news” and “incitement to violence.” The bill came before Tanzania’s parliament less than month after a series of publications were closed by the Tanzanian government that resulted in irate journalists refusing to give coverage to two government officers that personified the censorship.



Tanzania’s 1976 Newspaper Act is widely condemned by media freedom advocates for sweeping powers. The UK-based Article 19 said that fines for the two offences under the amendment would have increased fines from 150,000 shillings (US$93) which they are under the present Act, to 5,000,000 shillings (US$3118).

“Eastern Africa is experiencing an increase in attacks against freedom of expression. The Newspaper Act is terrible as it is, and these amendments show just how far the government is willing to go to stifle freedom of expression. While the rejection of the amendments is positive, Tanzanian MPs should remain vigilant,” said Maina Henry, Article 19’s Eastern Africa Director.

Article 19 also urged the government to table the Media Services Bill and the Right to Information Bill. “Broad consultations should be held with all stakeholders throughout the legislative process to ensure that each bill complies with international standards on freedom of expression and access to information,” Article 19 said.

In October, Tanzanian journalists protested the closure of three newspapers. The three publications banned were Mwananchi, Mtanzania and Mwanahalisi. Mwanahalisi has been banned from July 2012 and Mwananchi, Mtanzania were banned on September 27, for 14 and 90 days respectively. According to a press release by the Windhoek-based Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), “the two newspapers were accused of publishing provocative and seditious stories intended to incite the public against the government.”

Following this important stakeholders in Tanzania’s private media decided to boycott coverage of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports Minister Fenella Mukangara and Director of Information Services Assah Mwambene from October 8, after they refused to lift a ban on the publications suspended for “publishing articles inciting hostility (…) and thereby endangering peace and social cohesion.”

Please click here for more on press freedom in Tanzania.

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