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Information minister accuses three newspapers of writing "defamatory" reports

(MISA/IFEX) - On 13 February 2009, the Tanzanian minister of information, sports and culture ordered three newspapers to provide reasons why they published what he calls "defamatory" news reports. The newspapers in question are "Taifa Letu", "Sema Usikize" and "Taifa Tanzania".

The minister accused the three newspapers of writing defamatory reports against three prominent figures, namely Reginald Mengi, the executive chairman of IPP Media Limited and the owner of a number of media organizations, Nazir Karamagi, the former minister of energy and minerals, and a former unnamed prime minister.

The newspapers wrote that Mengi was involved with an underage girl while Karamagi was condemned for fooling around with another person's wife. The former prime minister is alleged to have engaged in untoward sexual behaviour. The minister has asked the newspapers' owners to justify why disciplinary action should not be taken against them.

Moreover, the government and other political groups have intensified attacks on the media in the past few days, expressing concern at what they called media's interference in parliamentary, judiciary and government privacy and business.

According to the speaker of National Assembly, "Media is interfering [in] Parliament's privacy, hence important decisions are put in [the] public." He quoted section. 114 (11) of the Parliamentary Standing Orders 2007, which guarantees privacy when standing committees are discussing matters and opinions that are about to be presented in Parliament.

MISA-Tanzania has written to the speaker of the National Assembly appealing against the privacy provisions and has already issued a press release to condemn all laws that violate freedom of expression and the right to information. MISA-Tanzania objects to the latest threat by the minister of information on the three newspapers. MISA-Tanzania is calling on the government to refer this matter to the Media Council of Tanzania for examination.

The Tanzanian government has taken similar actions in the past. In 2008, the minister of information shut down "Mwanahalisi" newspaper on allegations of defaming the president and other senior political figures.

For further information on the "Mwanahalisi" case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/98098

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