Dar es Salaam. A couple of days after Jamii Forums suspended its services to comply with the requirements of contentious new online regulations, several bloggers have followed suit and shuttered their services. Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) had disallowed publishing of online content without the necessary licenses, effective June 11. Bloggers had until June 15 (today) to acquire licenses.
Independent bloggers and content aggregators such as Darmpya Blog, Makonda Media and Innowisetz have chosen to voluntarily shut down to avoid the ire of Tanzania’s communications regulators.
Earlier in the year, the Ministry of Communication issued new regulations under the auspices of Tanzania’s Electronic and Postal Communications Act, 2010 (EPOCA) which, among other things, required online news providers, bloggers, forums and contented aggregators to register their services with TCRA.
Because registration requires payments of fees ranging from TSh 100,000/- for registration to a TSh 1,000,000/- license fee, bloggers have been left reeling from this sudden business cost.
John Marwa, who blogged at Darmpya, said they should have been given up to a year to comply instead of just three weeks.
“We are not against the TCRA mandate,” he told The Citizen via phone, “…but such a sudden requirement is an uphill battle for those of us who have ventured into this business. We expected the authority to give us sufficient time to comply.”
He feels TCRA should have figured out a way to monitor content while encouraging growth in the blogging and online space, instead of using the law to shut these nascent operators down.
Makonda Media’s Mohamed Ramadhani argues young people are naturally drawn to these platforms because of “advances in technology.” “Technology is why most of us are coming into this business – but now we’re having to close down suddenly,” he said.
When asked about the timeline for compliance, TCRA Acting public Relations manager Mr Semu Mwakyanjala told The Citizen that the agency will not be offering any extensions. “We’re not adding extra time – we will ensure all content providers register. They can even register after the deadline.”
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