Arusha. Hearing of a case challenging the Media Services Act, 2016, could not take place at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) on Monday after the petitioners requested for additional witnesses.
Justice Faustin Ntenzilyayo of the regional court adjourned it to a later date to, also, give chance to the defendants to respond to the demands of the parties to the suit.
The case was filed by the media stakeholders through the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) and the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders’ Coalition (THRDC) to challenge some clauses of the new law.
The controversial legislation was enacted by the parliament in November 2016.
Before adjourning the case, justice Ntenzilyayo gave the defendants 14 days to respond to the demands of the parties to the suit. This, according to the order, should be completed by September 28.
The petitioners, the media stakeholders through MCT, LHRC and THRDC, also have until October 10 to file a rejoindre, if any.
In earlier submissions, the government has maintained that the new law was reflective of both the country’s 1977 Constitution and the East African Community (EAC) Treaty.
However, the applicants, represented by advocates Jenerali Ulimwengu, Donald Deya, Fulgence Massawe, Jebra Kambole and Mpale Mpoki claim that the Media Services Act 2016 is a threat to press freedom and freedom of expression and thereby constitute a violation of Tanzania’s obligation under the East African Treaty to uphold and protect human and peoples’ rights standards as specified in Articles 6(d), 7(2) of the Treaty.
They further argue that the Act is an unjustified restriction on the freedom of expression and of the press, which is a cornerstone of the principle of democracy, rule of law, accountability, transparency and good governance.
The parties to the suit, therefore, want the regional Court to cease application of the Media Services Act 2016 and consider repealing the same to conform to the EAC Treaty.
The Media Services Act was enacted to repeal the Newspaper Act of 1976 that was deemed outdated.