MCT, activists challenge new media law in East Africa court

Thursday January 12 2017
PIC MCT

Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) executive director Helen Kijo-Bisimba speaks to journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday on the petition that has been lodged in the East Africa Court of Justice to challenge the Media Services Act. Others, from left, are lawyer Jembra Kabone, veteran journalist and activist Jenerali Ulimwengu, Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coordinator Onesmo Olengurumwa and Media Council of Tanzania Executive Secretary Kajubi Mukajanga. PHOTO | SALIM SHAO

Dar es Salaam. The Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) has teamed up with the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) and the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) to file a case in the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) challenging the Media Services Act.

They lodged the petition to the EACJ claiming that some sections of the newly passed legislation threaten freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

The petitioners established that some sections of the law were against Tanzania’s obligations to the East African Treaty of upholding and protecting human and peoples’ rights standards as specified in Articles 6(d) and 7(2) of the treaty.

The Treaty requires partner states to abide by the principles of good governance, democracy, rule of law, transparency, social justice and the maintenance of universally accepted standards of human rights.

One of the petitioners’ attorneys, Mr Fulgence Massawe, explained that the case is established at first instance because the EACJ had the jurisdiction, as provided under Article 23, to hear and determine any matter in accordance with the treaty.

In their petition, the petitioners have highlighted eighteen (18) sections of the Media Service Act, to which they ask the court to set out as they contravene the EAC Treaty.

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The contested sections, include parts of Section 7 together with sections 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 33, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40, 50, 52, 53, 54, 58 and 59.

MCT executive secretary Kajubi Mukajanga said they had chosen the EACJ because they believed the court was an appropriate medium to serve justice.

“After efforts to stop the passing of the law failed, the court of law is our last resort in seeking justice,” he said.