Forward of elections, Tanzania’s regulator is used as a cudgel in opposition to the media

On August 27, the second day of the Tanzanian House of Representatives ahead of the October 28 general election, government officials ordered the private vendors of Clouds TV and Clouds FM to change their regular programming and apologize until midnight and then suspend all programs for a week.

The increase in repentance was regulated by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), on the grounds that both advertisers violated the law by disclosing the results of parliamentary elections without confirming this to the Commission of Tanzania.

Such punishments are increasingly common in Tanzania. In 2020, TCRA ordered one television station, a news page, and four other advertisers to suspend the program, and fined 10 more journalists, according to CPJ, which reviewed TCRA’s public statements. The supervisor cited violence and immorality as a result of which it paid for other retail outlets; others were punished for allegedly misleading or biased on issues such as politics and the COVID-19 epidemic.

The brutality of the supervisor – the recent spate of restrictions on the freedom of the press in Tanzania by the CPJ – weakens the ability of journalists to report their decisions independently, according to 12 Tanzanian journalists who spoke to the CPJ in September and October.

“There is a fear, a deep fear for the media. Self-government has begun. People choose not to do things instead of just doing them and can be criticized by the TCRA or the ministry [of information], “Said General Ulimwengu, a weekly correspondent with TheEastAfrican newspaper and an old parliament in Tanzania.

Ulimwengu, who spoke to CPJ through a newsletter program in September and October, said he thought journalists were avoiding criticizing the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Tanzania’s ruling party.

According to reports, President John Magufuli is running for office. As the vote draws to a close, Tanzanian officials have stepped up their crackdown on governmental and opposition groups, raising concerns among political analysts and human rights groups that things in the country “will not lead to free elections” such as Ringisai Chikohomero, a researcher with the African non-profit Institute for Security Study. , ikani.

Journalists who spoke to the CPJ in December 2015 hoped that the newly elected Magufuli would change the ban on media offenses and statistics and highlight the complex media law. Instead, over the past five years CPJ has documented the explosion of media freedom through retaliatory cases, shutdown of journalists, and stricter laws.

In July, Tanzania amended its Internet rules in 2018, setting the requirements for online journalists, including bloggers, to pay more money to TCRA and promote bans on many groups, including political demonstrations and natural disasters, according to with the rules, CPJ was reviewed. The revised rules also give effect to the TCRA, an independent body called the “quasi Independent Government body” which was established in 2003 to oversee the power supply and regulating frequency, to make it more efficient.

“TCRA has gone beyond directing and becoming very interested,” Maria Sarungi-Tsehai, director of the Independent Kwanza Online TV, told CPJ via a messaging program in September.

Khalifa Said, a freelance journalist who spoke to the CPJ in September, recalls what he asked a videographer to work with him on a very daunting task until he asked for a contract extension to remove him if the directors called.

TCRA officials did not respond to CPJ emails requesting comment in September and October. The CPJ also liaised with the Tanzanian media minister, which has the power to elect TCRA chief executive and board members. The caller, Harrison Mwakyembe, declined to comment, saying he was busy with elections. He sent a CPJ to the state spokesman, Hassan Abbasi, but did not respond to a text or call from the CPJ.

In April TCRA suspended the Chinyanja Mwananchi newspaper from broadcasting for six months for posting an old Magufuli video on the fish market. At the time, people familiar with the matter told CPJ the video said it was indicating that the President was acting recklessly in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic. In July, the supervisor unveiled Kwanza Online TV and banned 11 months for sharing US ambassadors COVID-19, according to CPJ. Mwananchi returned online on October 16, according to reports on his page and on TheCitizen, the same company.

Chambi Chachage, a Tanzanian political correspondent and post-doctoral researcher at Princeton University, said that while some laws were important, they were concerned about what they called the unfair and oppressive use of them.

“Who thinks you should be banned for one week? For one year? “Chachage, who lives in the United States, told CPJ.

Between January and April, the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) filed a lawsuit against at least seven journalists and bloggers for failing to register TCRA websites and YouTube pages, according to Coalition’s public statement. The Coalition, an organization of umbrellas for local rights groups, said it had registered at least 13 people to be tried during the period; The two were convicted and fined at least five million Tanzanian shillings (US $ 2,150) instead of 12 months in prison.

In August and September, CPJ spoke with three detainees who said the registration fee was too low and they lived in fear of possible penalties. “It’s cheaper to go to jail for one year than to pay this fine,” said blogger Jabir Johnson, one of only three who agreed to be named and his trial is ongoing.

The moderator has also used local media for external media. In August, TCRA issued a warning to four Tanzanian radio stations for re-broadcasting a BBC interview with President Tundu Lissu’s opponent, according to a TCRA document.

The warnings followed a change in advertising laws in June that required radio stations to have licenses with TCRA in order to regulate alternatives, according to reports. The rules also include the ambiguous notion that advertisers should consult a government official in any dealings with outsiders, without elaborating.

Officials have described the rules as a way to identify alliances with foreign companies and to ensure that foreign countries comply with local standards, according to media reports and statements from TCRA.

“We were very concerned about the law, as it appears to be a tool to control what journalists in Tanzania can cover in the future, which could put people at risk,” DW’s Africa service chief Claus Stäcker told CPJ via email, although he said all Tanzanian colleagues Tanzania received the new permit without delay.

In a statement issued on August 31, the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees the broadcasting of the Voice of America (VOA) broadcasting program, said that some of Tanzania’s affiliates “have quickly abandoned international programming.” “when the rules began to spread. In an email on October 15, USAGM informed CPJ that 23 of the 24 member states now have VOA; one is still awaiting TCRA approval to do so.

USAGM has told CPJ that it believes the new rules will not affect how VOA defines elections. However, local journalists who spoke to CPJ have no hope.

“We are trying to be professional and careful, but even this does not protect you. In the meantime, as a journalist, you are suffering, ”said a reporter for Watetezi TV, THRDC. The journalist asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

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