Senegal: CPJ says Tanzania imposes permanent ban on newspaper

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) - The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on authorities in Tanzania to end their harassment of the weekly newspaper, Mawio, which was permanently banned from publishing in print and online and had two of its editors briefly detained.

In a statement, made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal, on Friday, CPJ said Tanzania's Information Minister, Nape Nnauye, announced that the privately-owned      
Kiswahili-language newspaper had been barred from publishing under the 1976 Media Act, for allegedly inciting violence in articles.

The Information Minister was said to have cited a report in which he said the paper declared the opposition candidate the winner in presidential elections in Zanzibar and a headline that loosely translated as "Unrest coming to Zanzibar."

"We are extremely concerned that Tanzanian news outlets are facing retaliation for reporting on the political crisis in Zanzibar," remarked CPJ's Africa Program Coordinator, Sue Valentine.

"We call on authorities to allow Mawio to publish freely and to set about changing the country's outdated media laws that can be too easily abused to stifle the flow of information."

According to CPJ, elections in Zanzibar are often contentious because of calls in the Tanzanian archipelago for greater autonomy from the mainland.

The Zanzibar Electoral Commission annulled the polls in October after the opposition party Civic United Front, which favours autonomy, declared victory.

The statement also disclosed that last Monday two editors of Mawio, Jabir Idrissa and Simon Mkina, were questioned by police about the paper's coverage of Zanzibar.    

They were set free on bail the next day after the Tanzania Editors Forum pressed for their release and the two editors have been ordered to report daily to a local police station until further notice.

CPJ said no formal charges have been filed against the duo.

The statement also quoted Absalom Kibanda, chairman of the Tanzania Editors  Forum, as saying that the closure of the newspaper and the arrest of the journalists were especially disappointing coming only two months after the election of a new president, John Magufuli, stirred expectations for stronger democracy.

Kibanda told CPJ the Tanzania Editors Forum was "shocked" by the ban and arrests.

"We only recently held talks with the Minister of Information about some of the laws which create a repressive environment for the media and we had so much hope that this new government would be responsive to our requests. We are shocked that they have instead taken us 10 years back, to the era of banning newspapers," he said.

He added that under the 1976 Act there are no provisions to appeal a ban.

Mawio's distributor, Saed Kubenea, disclosed that the paper was shut down after it published a series of articles about the political crisis in Zanzibar.

The information minister was quoted in local media as saying the newspaper had previously received eight warnings about its "inflammatory" reportage, but did not provide further details or cite specific articles.

Kubenea confirmed in reports that the newspaper had previously received warnings about its coverage.

CPJ said the 1976 Newspapers Act allows authorities wide latitude to ban publications  and press freedom campaigners have long demanded its repeal.

In its 2013 report, "The Invisible Plight of the Tanzanian Press," CPJ called for the law to be scrapped.

The statement also disclosed that the latest developments came just days after the lifting of a year-long ban on the distribution of The East African, a weekly regional newspaper.
-0- PANA MLJ/VAO 22Jan2016

22 january 2016 13:34:19

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