21 June 2017

Tanzania: Editors Fault Decision to Ban Newspaper

Photo: The Citizen
Weekly Newspaper Mawio’s banned.

Dar es Salaam — The Minister of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports acted contrary to the law when he banned Mawio newspaper last week, the Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) said yesterday.

Addressing a news conference in Dar es Salaam, TEF chairman Theophil Makunga accused Dr Harrison Mwakyembe of overstepping his authority by imposing a two-year ban on the weekly.

He said the Media Services Act, 2016 only gave the Information minister powers to suspend content, not the publication of newspapers.

"By banning the newspaper, the minister has usurped the powers of the High Court and abdicated his responsibility as the principal guardian of the industry," Mr Makunga said.

TEF was responding to a statement announcing the ban issued by the Tanzania Information Services, which said that Dr Mwakyembe had exercised powers vested in him by Article 59 of the Media Services Act.

But Mr Makunga argued that the article provided the minister with powers to suspend content, not entire publications, adding that TEF had advised Mawio to challenge the ban in court.

"The punishment is unjust for the whole industry, and Mawio should challenge the decision in court, which is the only place where justice can be obtained," he said.

TEF secretary Neville Meena said if the government thought Mawio was wrong, it was supposed to institute legal proceedings against the publication as stipulated by the law.

According to Section 9(b) of the Information Services Act, the director of the Information Services Department has the power to suspend or revoke the licence of a publication in the event of failure of the licensee to comply with the prescribed conditions of the licence.

The director of Information Services Department, Dr Hassan Abbas, last weekend defended Dr Mwakyembe, saying the licences mentioned in Section 9 of the Media Services Act had yet to be issued.

"The minister was within his authority to suspend Mawio. Section 59 gives him those powers, and in this case the term 'content' is defined by the law as a publication.

"It should also be noted that there is no licence to revoke in this case because prior to the current law being enacted no newspaper licences were being issued," he added.


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