Tanzania: Ban on newspaper MwanaHalisi violates right to freedom of expression
|Publication Date||1 August 2012|
|Cite as||Article 19, Tanzania: Ban on newspaper MwanaHalisi violates right to freedom of expression, 1 August 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/505707642.html [accessed 10 March 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
ARTICLE 19 condemns the indefinite ban on MwanaHalisi newspaper by the Tanzanian government and urges them to lift it without delay. This act of censorship underscores the urgency of reforms to media regulation needed in the country.
"The indefinite ban on Mwanahalisi newspaper violates the right to freedom of expression and information. The government has no legitimate interest in licensing the print media, or prescribing which publications can or cannot be published" said Henry Maina, Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.
"This is a disappointing development for Tanzania, which has been increasingly tolerant of divergent and critical opinions in the media in recent months," he added.
The Tanzanian government issued a ban on the MwanaHalisi newspaper on 30 July 2012 through General Notice No. 258, published in the official government gazette, citing section 25 (1) of the 1976 Newspaper Act.
The government alleges that articles published in three editions of the newspaper in July 2012 were "seditious, inciting, promoted violence and were likely to jeopardize peace in the country." The government does not specify which articles were in violation of the 1976 Newspaper Act.
MwanaHalisi was banned for three months in October 2008 for publishing an article that alleged that senior government officials were plotting to unseat President Jakaya Kikwete in the 2010 election. That same year, the owner and the managing editor of MwanaHalisi were both attacked by at least three armed men in their newsroom, allegedly to deter investigative journalism.
Permanent and temporary bans or suspensions on newspapers amount to a wholesale abrogation of a publication's right to free expression, particularly where imposed unilaterally by an administrative body. The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has stated that: "effective self-regulation is the best system for promoting high standards in the media."
Criminal liability of any publication or individual, including for incitement to violence, must be decided by an independent judiciary in accordance with international standards on due process and the right to freedom of expression and information. Sanctions must be proportionate, and must never include a ban or suspension of a publication.
Article 18 of the Tanzanian Constitution guarantees every person the right to freedom of opinion and expression, but the Tanzanian government has so far failed to reform the media laws that would guarantee media freedom. Instead the government continues to rely on archaic and draconian laws such as the 1976 Newspaper Act, which allows for unilateral decision by the Registrar of Newspapers to ban or suspend newspapers without notice or caution.
ARTICLE 19 calls upon the government of Tanzania to lift the ban with immediate effect, repeal the 1976 newspaper act and prioritise reforms to media regulation in the country to promote an independent and free media.