Arusha. The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has ordered the government to immediately lift the ban on Mseto newspaper and to let it resume publication.
The Kiswahili tabloid was banned on August 11th, 2016 for a period of 36 months following a notice from the then minister for Information, Youth, Culture and Sports Nape Nnauye on alleged illegalities.
The Court, in its ruling following the case filed before EACJ by its publisher challenging the ban, noted that the government had failed to establish how the publication violated the public interest.
When ordering the ban, the minister alleged that 'Mseto' had pubished inciting and fake information contrary to section 25 of the Tanzania Newspapers Act of 1976.
But the regional Court, in its ruling delivered on Thursday, said the impugned order was made in violation of the right of freedom of expression as provided in the Constitution of Tanzania.
Further, the order derogates from the principles of democracy and adherence to the principles of good governance, the rule of law and social justice.
The Court also found out that the order banning the newspaper failed to conform with and adhere to the principles of accountability and transparency.
"By issuing order whimsically and which were merely his opinions and by failing to recognize the right to freedom of expression and press freedom as a basic human right, which should be protected, the minister acted unlawfully", the Court ruled.
In a judgement delivered by Lady Justice Monica Mugenyi, the EA Court ruled that the banning of 'Mseto' publication also was in contravention of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community (EAC).
"The provisions of Articles 6 (2) and 7 (d) as well as 8 (1) of the Treaty are binding and not mere aspirational", the Principal Judge observed, noting;
"The provisions are justiciable and obliged each EAC partner state to respect those sacrosanct principles of good governance and rule of law which were violated which were violated in this case."
In a suit filed before the EA Court, "Mseto' publishers challenged its banning, arguing that it not only contravened the EAC Treaty but also Tanzania state's "obligation to uphold and protect the fundamental and operational principles of the EAC".
Lady Justice Mugeny concurred that the minister acted in breach of the Treaty and prayed on the Tanzania government to order the resumption of the publication "without delay".