Tanzania's press, rights groups urge Suluhu to help amend 'draconian' media laws
Tuesday January 04 2022
Tanzanian media and human rights groups are asking President Samia Suluhu to help amend and scrap draconian media laws that hamper press freedom.
In June 2021, President Samia held talks with editors and said her government was ready to dialogue with the media to ensure a conducive working environment for journalists and the survival of the media in Tanzania.
The Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) Chairman Deodatus Balile told the President that Tanzanian media had been subjected to restrictions and hostile laws denying journalists their right to perform their duties, with some being harassed by the police while covering events. Mr Balile also asked the President to help remove advertising restrictions by government on private media.
After the president opened the door for discussions, the Tanzanian editors held several discussions with human rights groups, lawyers and media regulators and in November. Mr Balile submitted recommendations for amendment of various laws to the Minister for Information, Dr Ashatu Kijaji. The proposals relate to laws or provisions in various pieces of legislation which, in the view of media stakeholders, affect journalists and media outlets seeking to discharge their responsibilities.
The Media Services Act 2016 repealed the 1976 Newspapers Act and the John Magufuli regime used it to squeeze media freedoms. The law gives the Information minister powers to punish media houses and journalists arbitrarily. It gives the minister powers to ban any publication that publishes information thought to affect the national security and public health.
Section 7(1)(b)(iv) of the Act gives the government a say on the content of private media on issues that the government will deem to be of national importance. The Act also prohibits the publication of Cabinet issues, and requires social media users to be licensed and contributors accredited.
Another Section of the law provides for a fine of between Tsh5 million ($2,165) and Tsh20 million ($ 8,663) or a jail term of five years for anyone who violates the Act.
Other draconian laws proposed for amendment are the Right of Information Act, 2015, the Electronics and Postal Communications Act, controlling online content, and The Cybercrimes Act, 2015.
Mr Balile told The EastAfrican that media stakeholders want the powers that give the Director of Information the mandate to shut down media outlets reviewed.