Tanzania bans two papers

The Tanzanian has banned two widely-read newspapers, Mwananchi and Mtanzania, for allegedly publishing seditious articles.

At a press conference, the government’s Information Services Director, Assah Mwambene, said the newspapers had been banned because they carried articles which were likely to force citizens to mistrust their government.

Mr Mwambene made reference to several stories published by both newspapers and said these stories had not met minimum ethical standards, hence the ban.

Mwananchi has been banned for 14 days and Mtanzania for 90 days.

One such story, titled “New government salary scheme 2013”, appeared in the July 17 edition of Mwananchi and was said to have been based on an official document that was not for public consumption.

Mtanzania is said to have published, in its March 20 edition, an article suggesting the president of Tanzania had blood on his hands. The article was titled ‘Urais Damu’, which translates to “The Bloody Presidency”. On June 12, the newspaper is said to have also published an article titled “The revolution is inevitable”. Mr Mwambene alleges these articles were aimed at inciting violence.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa has condemned the bans. The institute’s regional programme specialist for media freedom, monitoring and research, Levi Kabwato, said the bans pointed to a country that was following a disturbing trend. “We therefore urge the government of Tanzania to carefully consider its actions towards the media, recognise the information needs of the people of Tanzania and to engage with the media accountability bodies which exist in the country as a way of dealing with various concerns that may arise from time to time.”

Tanzania continues to use outdated and repressive legislation such as the 1976 Newspaper Act and the National Security Act of 1970 to muzzle the press and block access to information in the country. Calls have been made to reform these laws and align them with the constitution and other human rights instruments.

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