Tanzania is now ready to review its media laws that have been previously described as hostile and an impediment to freedom of expression.
Newly appointed Minister for Information, Communication and Information Technology Nape Nnauye said that President Samia Suluhu had given a go-ahead for the amendments on the Media Services Act of 2016, and that the ministry was reviewing it.
“Our aim is to provide a conducive working environment for journalists, through which their freedom and rights will be promoted and protected,” Mr Nnauye said.
Last June, Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) met President Samia and sought her intervention in reviewing the laws.
Tanzania editors and journalists held several discussions that involved media clubs, human rights groups, lawyers and government’s media regulators on loopholes in media laws in Tanzania.
In November, TEF chairman Deodatus Balile submitted recommendations for amendment on various laws to the former Information minister Dr Ashatu Kijaji.
The current media laws give the Information minister sweeping powers to punish media houses and journalists without further consultation with lawyers and other media arbitration stakeholders.
It gives the same minister full powers to ban any publication or newspaper that prints information deemed to affect national security and public health.
The Act gives the government a direct say on the content of private media, on issues that the government will deem to be of national importance, then wields this section to punish such media houses. It also prohibits publication of Cabinet issues even if a journalist can prove that the source dossier was a bona fide Cabinet document.
The Act also requires users of all social media platforms to be licensed as well as have freelance contributors and correspondent accredited.
Mr Balile told The EastAfrican that Tanzania journalists were confident the ongoing process will bring about full press freedom and freedom for journalists.
“We are confident that the newly appointed ministers cherish fostering freedom of expression and also help to develop media freedom in Tanzania through closer cooperation with media houses, editors and journalists,” Mr Balile said.
He added, “We expect Mr Nnauye to fast track the process that would lift the ban on four newspapers in Tanzania.”
The four, all published in Kiswahili - Mawio, Mwanahalisi, Tanzania Daima and Mseto - were banned in the past five years.
Other media and human rights groups that pushed for the review and amendments to the media laws are the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Tanzania Chapter), the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA), the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) and the Citizens Information Bureau.
Others are Twaweza; an educational research organisation, SIKIKA, also researching on educational opinions and the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC).