Tanzania: Jamii Forum Founder Speaks Out On Decision to Close Site

Giving this award to Melo also shines a light on the worrying trend in sub-Saharan Africa of governments using overly broad cybercrime laws to crack down on free speech online, says CPJ.

Dar es Salaam — The founder of Jamii Forum, a whistleblowing forum, Mr Maxence Melo, has revealed the reason behind his organisation decision to shut down its site.

Mr Melo, who has had some troubles with the government recently, said they have decided to shut down the forum because the Electronic and Postal Communication Regulations do not accommodate service providers.

Speaking to The Citizen in a telephone interview, Mr Melo, accused the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) of targeting whistle-blowers' forums when drafting regulations.

The online content regulations require bloggers and forums operators to register with the TCRA to ensure that comments submitted by blog readers, forum users are moderated be-fore they are published. They are also required to identify the source of content.

"We have been targeted because our forum is a service provider and not content provider, so we have decided to shut it down because we don't' fit anywhere (in the online content regulations)," said Mr Melo.

The TCRA gave online services providers until yesterday to register with the authority in accordance with the regulations.

Reached for comment, the TCRA acting public relations manager, Mr Semu Mwakanjala, played down the allegations.

"What we are doing now is to register all online content providers... we haven't closed any of them," said Mr Mwakanjala when reached by The Citizen's sister paper Mwananchi.

Jamii Forum posted on their site saying that because they have not been registered, they could no longer offer services, until the matter was resolved.

"It is obvious that our platform was being targeted when this regulation was formulated," Mr Melo. In 2016, Jamii Forum founders were arraigned for declining to reveal identities of some of the users of their platform. The case is still ongoing.

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