January 27, 2015

EU Criticizes Ban on The EastAfrican Newspaper

The European Union is concerned that modern media legislation and the citizens’ Right to Information has not yet been promulgated in Tanzania despite repeated commitments by  the Government.

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The concern is based on the recent ban of The EastAfrican newspaper from circulation in Tanzania, 20 years after it was launched to cover the region.

The ban was declared in a letter dated January 21, 2015 in which the weekly newspaper was directed to immediately stop publishing, printing and circulating in Tanzania “until it has officially been registered by the Registrar of Newspapers, Tanzania Information Services.”

According to a letter, the paper “has been circulating in the country without having registration, contrary to section 6 of the Newspaper Act number 3 of 1976.”

But the European Union says in a statement released this morning that the government decision gives rise to concerns about freedom of press in Tanzania.

The statement is also backed by the High Commission of Canada and Embassies of Norway and Switzerland in the region.

“The Delegation of the European Union calls upon the Government to make every effort to preserve the freedom of expression in Tanzania and it urges all stakeholders to prioritize constructive dialogue as the primary means to resolve differences,” the statement reads.

The same statement recalls excerpts of a 2010 independent Election Observation Mission report by the European Union team which recommended expediting modernization of the media laws, taking into account stakeholders’ views.

“It is the duty of the media to work within the law and to make every effort to adopt and adhere to professional standards.

But Press Freedom and freedom to express opinions are fundamental rights of the people, which call for circumspection and proportionality in the application of the law.” The statement reads in part.

Initial reports indicated that before the ban was issued, the newspaper’s Bureau Chief, Christopher Kidanka, was summoned and interrogated by Assah Mwambene, the Director of Information Services, who also doubles as the government’s spokesman.

It was during this session that the government expressed its dissatisfaction with the newspaper’s reporting, analysis and opinions.

Mwambene accused The EastAfrican of having a negative agenda against Tanzania and singled out a recent opinion that criticized the Dar es Salaam administration’s stance on the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a case in point.

Mwambene also took exception to the cartoon in the current issue of The EastAfrican, that he said demonstrated bad taste and disrespect to the person and office of the president.

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