Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu has lifted a ban on four newspapers that were shut down under the regime of her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli, as she embarks on implementing her promised reforms.
Lift media ban
This week, the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology announced it had revoked the suspension of licences for Tanzania Daima, Mawio, Mwanahalisi and Mseto.
The publications were initially said to be troublemakers and unethical when the government revoked their licences.
However, Minister Nape Nauye told a meeting with editors in Dar es Salaam that the licences were restored as part of the country’s continued efforts to support civil liberties.
“The President's order is law and must be enforced. Today, I will restore licences to the four (banned) newspapers,” he said
“It’s good to start a new chapter…let work continue.”
Media law and safety of journalists
In 2016, Tanzania enacted the Media Services Act that allowed the government to shut down media houses, or suspend publications and broadcasts.
It was followed with a rapid clampdown, including demanding registration from YouTubers and bloggers as well as restricting cue-ins by local TV stations to global channels. Newspapers touching on sensitive issues were quickly shut down.
The International Press Institute (IPI), an association of editors, media executives and leading journalists, and which had initially criticised the clampdown, has welcomed the new reforms and called for further action to ensure oppressive laws are repealed.
“Lawmakers must urgently bring Tanzania’s media laws in line with international standards to prevent the threat of censorship in the future,” Ravi R. Prasad, IPI Director of Advocacy, said in an earlier statement.
“In addition, attacks against journalists in recent years must be the subject of serious and thorough investigations to prevent impunity.”
It is the same call made on Wednesday by the Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) chairman, Mr Deodatus Balile, after a meeting between the Forum and the Communication Minister in Dar es Salaam.
The minister said the newspapers will be required to operate within the law as the country tries to build a united nation.
The minister’s announcement comes nearly a year into President Samia’s tenure and 10 months after she ordered public officials to stop harassing the media, reassured the country of freedom of expression and directed the lifting of bans on media banned.
At a briefing in Dar es Salaam in April last year, she said the media should be let free to operate as long as they work within the law.
President Samia has embarked on overturning some controversial policies of her predecessor, including getting back into the global fold to fight the Covid-19 pandemic which President Magufuli had denied.
Tanzania now fully embraces Covid-19 protocols, including vaccination and announcing infection rates.
She had also lifted the ban on pregnant girls and teen mothers attending school, a controversial stance first imposed by Magufuli in 2017.