Tanzania’s leading Web Platform Jamii Forums has closed down in a new government order banning all media outlets including blogs from publishing any information unless they are licensed. The platform is known for giving Tanzanians a platform to freely share dossiers and opinions concerning government operations.
This follows a new law that requires all online media creators, including everything from online radio providers to bloggers, to pay registration and license fees amounting to about $920 (Ksh92,000).
The pioneer of the platform Mr Maxence Melo argues that the platform does not fit in any of the platforms highlighted in the new law, and that it caught them by surprise to be closed down. “We have been meeting stakeholders to see what works and what doesn’t,” Melo told Kahawa Tungu.
The new law allows for punishments of up to a year in prison and at least 5 million shillings—approximately Ksh220,000. The Tanzanian government is largely cracking down on speech critical of President John Magufuli, but censors have also started targeting content considered sexually obscene or hate speech.
In a notice to their readers, the Dar Es Salaam based blog stated that they will be offline until the stalemate is resolved. Bloggers in Tanzania have been stiff-necked in following the government order
The Government of Tanzania through the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TRCA) has given bloggers and other media outlets up June 15 to acquire licenses, or face the law.
“Baada ya tarehe 15 Juni, 2018, hatua za kisheria zitaanza kuchukuliwa dhidi ya yeyote atakayekuwa anatoa huduma za maudhui bila kusajiliwa na kupewa leseni kwa mujibu wa sharia (After June 15, 2018, legal action will be taken against anyone who blogs without prior registration and licensing according to the law),” stated TRCA.
“Tunasikitika kuwa tunalazimika kufikia hatua hii ghafla lakini ni matumaini yetu kuwa wateja wetu mtaendelea kuwa wavumilivu katika kipindi hiki (We regret having to take this step and we request our readers to remain calm during this period), stated Jamii Forums.
Other Tanzanian websites and blogs that were unavailable at the time we were going to press include the Swahili Times, Wavuti.com and technology bloggers kitekiteki.com among others.
“These regulations were supposed to uphold citizens’ rights to privacy, access to information and free expression,” Maxence Melo, the director of the JamiiForums, the ‘Swahili Wikileaks,’ told CNN. “We have completely lost our Freedom on the Cyberspace.”
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