Sunday, September 29, 2013

Govt shuts down Mwananchi, Mtanzania for ‘provoking hostility’

Government spokesperson Assah Mwambene says

Government spokesperson Assah Mwambene says they ordered both newspapers temporarily boarded up due to their tendency to publish stories that shore up negative public sentiment. PHOTO | FILE 

By The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. The Government has imposed fourteen-day and ninety-day publication bans on Mwananchi and Mtanzania newspapers respectively, effective Friday, September 27.

The decision was announced yesterday by the Director of Information, Mr Assah Mwambene, citing, as the main reason, the tendency by the newspapers to publish stories and photographs that were intended to provoke hostility by the public, against the State as well as defence and security organs.

Mr Mwambene said the decision was in enforcement of Government Notice No. 333 of Friday, September 27, 2013, the date on which the ban takes effect.

According to the statement on July 17, 2013 Mwananchi printed a story on new government salary structures which was based on a confidential dossier that was never meant to be made public.

Moreover, on August 17, 2013 the same newspaper published a story that the government argues falsely shows Muslims worshippers had had to pray under a heavy police guard.

A photograph that accompanied the story “created the impression that the police had deployed dogs to places of worship, which wasn’t true,” reads the government brief.

Mr Mwambene said Mtanzania had on a number of occasions been warned over violating professional ethics, but had defied directives of the registrar of newspapers, by publishing emotive stories, implying that, the government was slow in combating terrorist attacks and similar incidents.

He cited screaming headlines like ‘Bloody Presidency’ in the March 20, 2013 edition and ‘A revolution is inevitable’ on September 27, 2013 as other cases in point.

For details, see the following UNOFFICIAL translation of the government edict. The original statement can be found here in Kiswahili

THE COMPLETE GOVERNMENT STATEMENT

(An Unofficial Translation)

The government has banned Mwananchi and ‘Mtanzania’ for separate periods effective September 27, 2013, due to their trend of publishing news stories and articles that provoke incitement and hostility, with the intention of influencing the citizens to lose confidence in State organs, and thus endanger the peace and cohesion that prevails in the country.

A fourteen-day (14) ban has been imposed on Mwananchi from the date cited above, in compliance with Government Notice Number 333 of September 27, 2013.

That penalty is in response to the newspaper’s recent trend of publishing editorial material that bears an incitement and peace-disruption orientation.

An example is a story headlined ‘The government’s new salaries 2013’ in its edition of July 17, 2013, based on a confidential government document that had not been meant for publication by media organs.

What’s more, in its August 17, 2013 edition, the newspaper published a story supported by a headline that read ‘Muslims pray under heavy security presence’, which was spiced up by a photograph of a very fierce-looking dog.

The story-photograph combination created an impression that, the Police Force had deployed dogs to places of worship for Islamic worshippers; something that wasn’t true.

During its patrols on that particular day, the Police Force did not deploy dogs to places of worship, because both the government and the Force respect and uphold Islamic ethics, and cannot therefore deploy dogs to places of worship.

For that matter, therefore, the newspaper’s move to publish the news item , and spice it with the dog’s photograph, was an act of provoking hostility by Islamic worshippers towards the Police Force, because dogs are regarded as filthy and are not allowed to go into places of worship.

Mtanzania has been banned for ninety (90) days effective September 27, 2013, for publishing incitement stories. The newspaper has been given several warnings over the trend and asked to stick to media laws and regulations.

In spite of the warnings, however, the newspaper didn’t demonstrate willingness to comply with instructions issued by the Registrar of Newspapers.

In the 7262 issue of its March 20, 2013, edition, for example, it published a news item under the headline ‘Bloody presidency’; and, in Issue Number 7344, in the June 12, 2013 edition, it published an article headlined ‘A revolution is unavoidable’.

In addition, the newspaper did, on the front page of Issue Number 73414, on September 18, 2013, publish a headline that read: “THE GOVERNMENT STINKS OF BLOOD’.

The item was illustrated by highly sophisticated computer-manipulated photographs highlighted by red colour, reminiscent of much blood being spilled.

In the accompanying text, the newspaper alleged, without providing evidence, that the government was responsible for the fate of people who had been critically injured in acid and other forms of attacks by unknown individuals.

The newspaper has also accused the government of being weak in dealing with incidents that bear hallmarks of terrorist attacks. On the whole, that news item is intended to influence the citizens to hate defence and security organs, by perceiving them as not being helpful .

On the basis of the violations cited above, the government has imposed a ninety-day (90) publication ban on Mtanzania, under Government Notice Number 332, of September 27, 2013.

The government is asking media owners, editors, and journalists as a whole, to be keen, by adhering to professional ethics and guidelines.

The government is asking the owners, and particularly editors, to ensure that, news items and programmes enforce ethics, and to give national interests as well as patriotic obligations, high-level attention.

The government is warning media organs that are not coupling media freedom with responsibility, that, it will take serious action against them, which include being banned. The government will not tolerate a trend of media organs becoming sources of disruption of peace in the country.

Issued by the Director,

Information Services

Ministry of Information, Culture and Sports

28 September, 2013. 

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