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Tanzanian media houses impose blackout on government minister in response to newspaper ban

A screenshot of <em>MwanaHalisi</em>'s website. The newspaper has been banned since 2012.
A screenshot of MwanaHalisi's website. The newspaper has been banned since 2012.

mwanahalisi.co.tz

Tanzanian media houses resolved, on Wednesday 9, October 2013, to dissociate themselves from any government activity performed by the Minister of Information, Dr Fenella Mukangara, and the government spokesperson, Assah Mwambene, until further notice.

The decision was made during a media stakeholders meeting held in the capital, Dar-es-Salaam, following the government's failure to respond to the media fraternity's appeal to lift the ban on three major papers in the country: MwanaHalisi, Mwananchi and Mtanzania.

Stakeholders also decided to continue pressuring the government to repeal the 1976 Newspaper Act and to enforce the case against the same Act, filed by Hali Halisi Publishers in 2009 with support from the Tanzania Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Tanzania).

A statement issued by the media stakeholders at the meeting said in part; “We are saddened by the government's step to ignore our plea to repeal the law [1976 Newspaper Act] and slowing the process to establish a new law”.

The 1976 Newspaper Act is among other laws identified by a committee led by Justice Francis Nyalali (retired) in 1992 as going against the Constitution of the republic. Another law that has been used to stifle media freedom in the country is the 1970 National Security Act.

Background

On 27 September, 2013, the government of Tanzania banned two major newspapers - Mwananchi and Mtanzania for 14 days 90 days respectively. The newspapers are accused of not adhering to professional media ethics. This action followed a July 2012 ban on yet another popular weekly publication, MwanaHalisi.

In January this year, Tanzania president, Jakaya Kikwete, vowed not to unban MwanaHalisi, saying the newspaper would remain banned because his government does not condone breach of peace incited by the media.

“We will not unban MwanaHalisi newspaper because inciting the army to commit treason isn't the kind of journalism that we want,” Kikwete was quoted as saying by various Tanzanian media at the time.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • Media up in arms

    The groups that issued the coverage boycott call on 9 October in Dar es Salaam were the Media Owners Association, the Tanzania Editors Forum, the Media Institute of Southern Africa Tanzania Chapter, the Media Council of Tanzania and the Union of Tanzania Press Club. They expressed dismay at the government’s refusal to lift the newspaper bans and called for a “modern law on the right to information” and other up-to-date legislation to replace the Newspaper Act, which allows the authorities to suspend any publication unilaterally.

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