Kenya site hosts JamiiForums

JamiiForums co-founder Maxence Melo

What you need to know:

The forum which became popular as a whistleblowing social site that also championed debate among Tanzanians locally and in the diaspora, is accessible through a Kenyan site called ‘KenyaTalk’.

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s popular internet platform, JamiiForums, is accessible despite its owners’ decision to pull it down over restrictive online content regulations, it has emerged.

The forum which became popular as a whistleblowing social site that also championed debate among Tanzanians locally and in the diaspora, is accessible through a Kenyan site called ‘KenyaTalk’.

JamiiForums users continued to post and comment on the forum by signing into the Kenyan site, which quickly offered to host the Tanzanian site. However, the number of visitors or users was still low due to the fact that not many were aware of the switch.

When reached for comment, JamiiForums co-founder Maxence Melo said he was aware of the issue but he denied giving KenyaTalk credentials to host the forum.

“I have heard about that... this shows the value of our work, they have seen potential and the huge opportunity on what we have been doing and they have tried to ride on the wave,” he said.

He added; “They don’t have our blessings but since the platform promotes freedom of expression we have nothing to do about it although we have the room to deny them the use of our work.”

The hosting of JamiiForums by the Kenyan site comes just three days after the decision to pull it down in Tanzania. The move was blamed on the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) for imposing ‘harsh’ regulations which the founders felt was targeting it. The new regulations by TCRA require online content providers and bloggers to reveal details of their contributors, citizenship of owners and share capital, something that Mr Melo said was ambiguos to their work.

On the display on KenyaTalk, JamiiForums has been dragged as a sub forum with all its contents, where registered members continued to post and debate on various issues. Some of those who posted yesterday hoped nothing will happen to stop the site in Kenya. They also encouraged members to spread the word about the opened opportunity.

The TCRA deadline for all online content producers to register and obtain a licence is tomorrow but the agency has said it will not shut down blogs and online forums that will fail to meet the deadline for registration.

Instead, bloggers and social forums will be prohibited from posting any new contents until they are done with the registration process.

Individual forum administrators and bloggers are however voluntary shutting down their sites or handing their running to foreign interests to avoid running into trouble, whose punishment could land them long jail terms and hefty fines.

According to the regulations that were passed in March, owners of the blogs and other online forums are subjected to pay up to Sh2.1 million, including Sh1 million for initial license fee to operate.

TCRA acting public relations manager Mr Semu Mwakyanjala told The Citizen yesterday that the affected platforms will remain dormant until compliance to the requirement. “None of them will be shut down, the past information will be accessible, but not new posts and all the stakeholders are aware of it,” he said in the telephone interview.

Mr Mwakyanjala said the fees charged was reasonable given that some of the online content providers have paid.

“We have received complaints about the fees but they are just normal complaints especially for business people because all they want is to make profit.”

He said 45 online content providers have met all the requirments and given the green light.