Tanzania has denied that its media laws are repressive after a newspaper was suspended for the second time in a month.
In response to questions about Whatsapp from The EastAfrican , government spokesman Gerson Msigwa, said: “Freedom of the press is not absolute and it is not above the law. Her Excellency President Samia Suluhu’s promise to ensure freedom of the press is real, trustworthy and well executed. We don’t have repressive media laws. ”
That answer comes barely two weeks after civil society went to court over the government’s continued use of clauses in the Tanzanian media law that had previously been invalidated suspend two more newspapers last month.
The Tanzania Media Council, Legal and Human Rights Center and Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition jointly filed the case with the East African Court of Justice (EACJ ) and argued that the government had shown “disregard for the court” when he was on the 11th. It belongs to the ruling CCM party.
According to a statement from the Directorate of Information Services (Maelezo) on August 11th If the newspaper violated Sections 50 and 52 of the Act, both of which were declared provisions, the court violated the Treaty establishing East Africa in an earlier judgment dated March 28, 2019 community.
The new case only mentions Uhuru’s suspension, as it was filed before Maelezo received the 30-day suspension of another leading Kiswahili newspaper, the weekly Raia Mwema, on September 5. < / p>
Attorney Fulgence Massawe, who represents the three plaintiffs, told The EastAfrican that discussions were ongoing with Raia Mwema representatives to bring their matter into the case ahead of the hearing begins on a later date.
“The provisions cited by Maelezo to justify the suspension of Raia Mwema are the same as those in the Uhuru case and, as such, are equally invalid because they were made long ago by the EACJ repealed, “said Massawe.
Section 50 of the Media Services Act criminalizes the publication of information or statements that are, among other things,” maliciously or fraudulently fabricated “or” knowingly false or without good cause for di e Assumption that it is true. “
Section 52 concerns seditious crimes which, for the purposes of the law, are defined as” inciting hatred, contempt, or discontent against the legitimate authority of the United Republic government ; “To” arouse dissatisfaction or dissatisfaction among people or parts of the population of the United Republic “; or to “promote feelings of malevolence and hostility among various peoples of the United Republic.” of the Electronic and Postal Communication Act 2018, Raia Mwema newspaper’s license has been suspended under Section 9 (b) of Media Services Act No. 12 of 2016 for 30 days after the license terms were violated.
Within Just a few weeks after taking office in March, President Samia called on the responsible ministry to immediately lift the ban on all media banned by former President John Magufuli and allow operations to continue. In its 2019 ruling on the suspension of the Mseto newspaper, the EACJ found that definitions of hate speech “fail the certainty test required in the first part of the test” because they “depend on the possible and potential subjective reactions of the audience to whom the publication is published takes place. ”
The EACJ ruled that 23 provisions of the Media Services Act of 2016 in Tanzania violated the EAC Treaty as they violated the right to freedom of expression. They directed the government to bring the law into line with the treaty. But two and a half years later this did not happen. The civil society team said it would go to the same court again to take “reasonable legal action” against the “blatant violation of the court order without penalty by the government of the United Republic of Tanzania”.
“Despite the ( In the first) case and without making any significant effort to challenge the court’s decision, the government did not obey the court’s orders, “the team noted.
” I think the celebration was premature. The lifting of the ban (on social media) was a good move, but it wasn’t comprehensive enough to guarantee media freedom, ”said Henry Maina, a legal and media expert who is also a member of the Kenya Media Complaints Commission and former director of Article 19 is East Africa.
Freedom of the press continues to receive lip service from the EAC partner countries Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan and Kenya. Journalists continue to face brutality from governments, politicians and the public. In Uganda, journalists were subjected to violence in the February elections. As Kenya prepares for the 2022 elections, there have been reports of some politicians threatening journalists. Part of the independent media is still banned in Burundi.