Freedom of expression online threatened in Tanzania

On the Monday of 11th June 2018, the Tanzanian government tightened its grip on free speech by ordering the immediate suspension of unregistered blogging sites and other online fora. Failure to suspend would lead to prosecution under Tanzania’s criminal law, forewarned the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA). The authority went ahead to explain that this move was in a bid to solve computer misuses such as hate speech, pornography, and online bullying.

Violators of the regulation will find themselves liable to paying a fine of at least five million Tanzania Shillings (2200 USD), serving a 12-month jail term or to both. This is in a bid to enforce the March Electronic and Postal Communications Regulations 2018 that requires bloggers and any other Internet-based service to reveal the names of their shareholders, their details, their approximate cost of investment, tax clearance certifications, pay slightly more than 900 USD in fees that includes an initial application fee, a licence fee and a renewable licence fee after 3 years and a lot more.

It is evident that this regulation only aims further stifle the already tight freedom of expression of the Internet in Tanzania. A popular site Jamiiforums  that is known to be used to expose unethical information on matters concerning the country continues to fight it out in court on grounds on infringement of the right to privacy of the freedom of expression. The appellate court is to rule on the freedom of expression in Tanzania but the most recent ruling was in the government’s favor.

Tanzania’s civil society  organizations have argued that “The law is part of a crackdown on dissent and free speech by the government of President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015”

The government of Tanzania is defying International, regional and national regulation with the legislation. It is evident that they have forgotten that, “ the same rights people have offline must also be protected online,” as provided in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights-In this case the universal freedom of expression.

The exorbitant fees will only seek to ensure that bloggers from the lower end of the economic spectrum are off the net, taking away their source of livelihood and freedom of speech.

We urge that the government of Tanzania and president Magufuli recall this legislation as it grossly contributes towards the abuse of numerous human rights. We are calling on Tanzania to keep the Internet open and free.

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