Court challenge to 'restrictive' media law in Tanzania

Tuesday March 13 2018

A newspaper stand in Dar es Salaam.

A newspaper stand in Dar es Salaam. Journalists in Tanzania fight a new law which they say will place unfair restrictions on what they can publish and block people from working as reporters. FILE PHOTO | AFP 

By BBC
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Journalists and activists will be in court in Tanzania Tuesday, fighting a new law which they say will place unfair restrictions on what they can publish and block people from working as reporters.

The case comes amid fears for freedom of expression in the country - especially in light the recent decisions to suspend a number of newspapers and jail individuals jailed for criticising the government.

The Media Council of Tanzania and rights activists say some provisions of the new media law unfairly restrict what a media outlet can publish.

They reject the requirement that all journalists in Tanzania must be accredited, and they oppose the power given to a government body to bar an individual from working as a journalist.

The applicants have taken the case to the East African Court of Justice, arguing these provisions contravene a treaty which requires member countries to abide by and protect all rights provided by the treaty.

Media stakeholders in Tanzania had requested more time to review the bill and provide their input before it was signed into law.

But their calls were dismissed, the parliament enacted the law, and the president quickly assented.

Over the past few years the media space in Tanzania has grown exponentially, but so have the laws and regulations which give authorities the power to restrict journalists and media organizations on the grounds of national security or public interest.