‘Mawio’ ban raises concern about media freedom

Monday January 18 2016
pic minister info

Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Nape Nnauye briefs journalists on the government’s ban of Mawio, in Dar es Salaam yesterday. He is flanked on his left and right by Maelezo director Assah Mwambene and senior official Raphael Hokororo. PHOTO|SALIM SHAO

Dar es Salaam. Media stakeholders have faulted the government’s permanent prohibition of publication of the weekly newspaper Mawio as a draconian act and continuation of muzzling of media in the country.

Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) Secretary Mr Neville Meena said the Newspaper Act which was invoked in banning Mawio remains one of the worst laws, since it deprives newspapers the right of defending themselves, and leaves the government act as complainant, prosecutor and judge rolled in one.

“This is a bad sign for President (John) Magufuli’s administration, two months in office and he is already banning a newspaper; how many will he ban in five years?” wondered Meena. For his part, outspoken opposition MP Tundu Lissu, said Mawio’s was sending a clear message that President Magufuli is not ready to take media criticism.

“No, he (Dr Magufuli) can’t tell us that he is different from the last government. He is still not upholding freedom of speech, he only wants to be celebrated by the media, which is sad news to the media fraternity,” said Mr Lissu.

Kigoma Urban MP and Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT-Wazalendo) party leader Mr Zitto Kabwe took it to twitter account to express his dissatisfaction with the government move, saying, “In The East African, out Mawio still there’s no change.”

The East African newspaper was allowed back into circulation over the weekend after a year-long ban, and Mr Kabwe is saying there’s nothing to celebrate for the move now that Mawio has been banned.

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Yesterday, Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports Nape Nnauye told reporters that the government had “regrettably” moved to permanently prohibit both print and online publication of Mawio since the editors of the paper refused to comply with the laws even after the registrar of Newspapers “tirelessly” warned them eight times between July 2013 and January this year.

“They have been running inflammatory articles, the last ones titled ‘Machafuko yaja Zanzibar’ (Violence coming in Zanzibar) and Maalim Seif Rais Zanzibar (Maalim Seif is the President of Zanzibar) shows how irresponsible are the editors of Mawio.”

The Minister also accused the editor of the newspaper of contempt, saying every time the office of the registrar demanded explanations for his articles the replies are “penned in a disrespectful language.”

“They are not the only newspaper that have been asked to explain their articles, there are papers like Mwananchi, Mtanzania, Daily News and Habari Leo that are always replying in a responsible and professional manner, but not Mawio, and we’ve had enough of their seditious writing.”

Owner of Mawio Simon Mkinga said the government used force against his paper and freedom of speech.

“Today’s is a world of free speech, and the purpose of any newspaper is to move the development circle forward. But sadly our government doesn’t want to be criticized, they only want a ‘yes, yes’ media,” he said.

The director for Hali Halisi Publishers, Saed Kubenea, who were the distributor of Mawio, said the only offence that the newspaper had committed was writing “investigative and analytical” stories especially on Zanzibar’s ongoing political crisis.

Mr Kubenea who is also Ubungo MP on the Chadema ticket, said the ban is also a message to other papers, that the government doesn’t want to be criticized.

Meanwhile Dar es Salaam special zone police commander Simon Sirro has asked Mawio editors to present themselves to police; else they will be arrested.