CIVICUS

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Tanzania

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Last updated on 12.06.2018 at 13:16

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Authorities force unregistered blogs and online platforms to shut down

Authorities force unregistered blogs and online platforms to shut down

On 11th June 2018, the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) ordered all unregistered blogs and online forums to suspend their websites and banned them from publishing new online content without the required licenses.

Expression

On 11th June 2018, the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) ordered all unregistered blogs and online forums to suspend their websites' functionality and banned them from publishing new online content without the required licenses. The deadline for registering blogs, online forums and online TV and radio has been set for 15th June. As reported previously on the Monitor, the the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations Law of 2018 came into force in March 2018 and seeks to regulate content published online, thereby impacting bloggers, radio and TV stations streaming online, and other online platforms. These media are now required to apply for a license before publishing content and must also pay an annual fee of up to 900 USD. Failing to comply with the new regulations could lead to criminal prosecution, including a fine of five million shillings (2,180 USD) and/or a one-year prison sentence. As a result of these new, restrictive regulations, the popular online platform Jamii Forums was forced to shut down temporarily on 11th June. 

TCRA's move follows a ruling by the High Court on 29th May upholding the restrictive law in favour of the government after six human rights organisations, media organisations and bloggers challenged the law in court, saying its provisions violate freedom of expression and compromise users' right to privacy. 

Association

People in Tanzania are free to form and join associations. Civil society organisations are regulated by the Non-Governmental Act of 2002 as amended in 2005.

People in Tanzania are free to form and join associations. Civil society organisations are regulated by the Non-Governmental Act of 2002 as amended in 2005. However, the legal framework for civil society organisations is not homogeneous with other NGOs registered under the Companies Act, and Faith-Based Organisations and Associations registered under the Societies Act and the Cooperative Societies Act. Depending on their sector of operation, some CSOs work in a challenging environment, as authorities sometimes stigmatise organisations, linking them with political parties or as agents of the West. Human rights defenders are subjected to judicial harassment, threats and intimidation, especially land rights activists. In 2016, LGBTI groups face an escalation of official pressure against them. In September 2016, Deputy Minister for Health Hamisi Kigwangala said organisations that ‘promote’ LGBTI rights would be banned and accused the gay community of spreading HIV and AIDS and undermining Tanzania's traditional values.

Peaceful Assembly

Article 20 (1) of the Constitution of Tanzania guarantees the right of peaceful assembly. A notification must be provided to the police 48 hours before holding a demonstration.

Article 20 (1) of the Constitution of Tanzania guarantees the right of peaceful assembly. A notification must be provided to the police 48 hours before holding a demonstration. The police can deny an assembly if it considers the assembly is likely to ‘cause a breach of the peace, prejudice the public safety or public order, be used for any unlawful purpose, or for failure to notify in the required time period.’ The Police Force and Auxiliary Service Act 2002 also establish that an assembly of three or more people, who do not obey orders to disperse when requested, would be classified as an “unlawful assembly”. In practice, sometimes security forces used excessive force to disperse peaceful protestors and even arrest protest organisers.

Expression

The constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, however this right is undermined by a number of laws including the National Security Act and the recently enacted Statistics Act and Cybercrimes Act that severely curtail media freedoms and access to information.

The constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, however this right is undermined by a number of laws including the National Security Act and the recently enacted Statistics Act and Cybercrimes Act that severely curtail media freedoms and access to information. In 2016, the Media Services Act was enacted, replacing the problematic Newspaper Act (1976) and the Tanzania News Agency Act (1976). Despite its stated intention to ‘professionalise’ the sector, new Act contains restrictive provisions and has been heavily criticised by media workers and free expression advocates throughout its drafting. In practice, journalists in Tanzania face harassment, threats and detention. Tanzania boasts several independent newspapers and numerous online news-sites and blogs. Nevertheless, government-aligned media dominates the television space. There are no overt restrictions on access to mobile phones or internet technology, but access to a decent internet connection is out of reach for many. As part of the crackdown on the LGBTI community, in 2016 the government announced that it would monitor the social media accounts of citizens who identify as LGBTI, and their followers. The Media Council of Tanzania, a self-regulation body, has been effective at improving standards of journalism while defending the rights of its members in cases where they have been harassed or attacked. The Council documented 20 freedom of expression violations in 2015.