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Mwananchi, Mtanzania ban draws tough reaction

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Kigoma North MP Zitto Kabwe 

By The Citizen Reporters

Posted  Monday, September 30  2013 at  00:00

In Summary

  • “We have been struggling for a long time, but to no avail...media stakeholders should not leave this crusade to MCT or human rights activists alone. This should also involve media owners, editors and professionals,”
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Dar es Salaam/Dodoma. Media stakeholders, academicians, politicians, MPs and religious leaders voiced their concern yesterday after the government banned two daily newspapers.

They spoke a day after the government announced that it had banned Mwananchi and Mtanzania for 14 and 90 days, respectively, for allegedly publishing classified information and seditious articles.

Commentators who spoke to The Citizen called for the repeal of draconian media laws to ensure press freedom and safeguard Tanzanians’ right to information.

Meanwhile, Mr Tido Mhando, Managing Director of Mwananchi Communications Limited, which publishes Mwananchi, said the newspaper did not have an ulterior motive when it published a story on new government salaries.

“We think that we played our role by informing the public about the new government salary structure, taking into consideration the fact that a few weeks earlier there had been similar changes for the private sector wages that were made public by the same government. We had good intentions of informing the public, and nothing else,” he said.

Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) Executive Secretary Kajubi Mukajanga said the government should understand that closing down media outlets was an assault on the democratic principle of freedom of expression.

“There are many ways to deal with errant media without affecting the audiences. The government should have alternative ways to deal with media when it thinks they have erred instead of banning newspapers.”

He added that MCT and Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRD Coalition) have for more than a decade been agitating for the review of laws that suppress freedom of expression.

“We have been struggling for a long time, but to no avail...media stakeholders should not leave this crusade to MCT or human rights activists alone. This should also involve media owners, editors and professionals,” Mr Mukajanga said.

Nipashe Managing Editor Jesse Kwayu condemned the government’s decision, saying it was a step backward in Tanzania’s endeavour to promote democracy. He said the Newspapers Act 1976 and National Security Act 1970 were outdated and incompatible with political pluralism.

Mr Kwayu also faulted the law which gives the Minister for Information powers to ban newspapers on a whim.

“Here we are talking about the government being the complainant, prosecutor, witness and judge, all rolled into one,” he said.

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