Senegal: CPJ wants ban on two radio stations in Tanzania lifted

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – Tanzanian authorities should immediately lift a ban on two privately owned radio stations and allow them to resume broadcasts without further harassment or censorship, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said.

In a statement made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal, on Thursday, CPJ disclosed that Tanzanian Information Minister, Nape Nnauye, on 29 August declared in Dar es Salaam that he had ordered the privately owned stations Radio Five and Magic FM to cease broadcasting immediately.

"The stations broadcast seditious materials that could incite the public and disturb the peace," Nnauye was said to have explained in a written statement issued on 30 August as the stations complied with the order.

According to CPJ, the information minister alleged that Magic FM aired content that had the potential to cause a breakdown in law and order on its 17 August morning show, ''Morning Magic,'' and that Radio Five broadcast seditious content on its evening program, Matukio.

"It is difficult to see how a morning radio show could cause a breakdown in law and order, but it is crystal clear that the government is trying to stop the flow of information and commentary," remarked CPJ East Africa Representative, Murithi Mutiga.

"We call on the government to allow Radio Five and Magic FM to resume broadcasting immediately, and to stop attempting to silence critical voices."

CPJ's statement pointed out that the minister had asked the content committee of the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority to summon the owners of the stations and to advise him on further steps.

Meanwhile, Neville Meena, Secretary of the Tanzania Editors Forum, told CPJ that the stations generally aired music and light talk shows, but that sometimes hosts and callers would discuss political issues, but the minister did not specify what statements he deemed as seditious or dangerous to law and order.

"We are very concerned by this action. The minister presented no evidence, and did not elaborate on what content in the stations he found seditious. This just goes to show that the current government, which has not even been in office for a year, is too sensitive to criticism and is seeking to close the space media enjoyed in the past," the statement quoted Meena as saying.

A journalist at one of the stations, who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of prejudicing negotiations with the government, also said he did not know what triggered the government's response, but that he suspected it was that many callers to a call-in show criticized a ban on political rallies imposed in June.

The statement also revealed that police briefly detained Edward Lowassa, President John Pombe Magufuli's main rival in the last election, on 29 August after he and other opposition leaders attempted to stage a demonstration to protest the ban.

According to CPJ, Magufuli's government, which came into office in October 2015, has taken a series of steps to restrict Tanzania's media environment.

The press freedom body recalled that in January 2016, the government closed the weekly newspaper, Mawio, after it reported on a political crisis in the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, where results of elections which the opposition claimed to have won were annulled.

It said in April, authorities halted live transmission of parliamentary debates, a vital platform that opposition parliamentarians use to communicate with the public.

Also, another newspaper, Mseto, was said to have been closed for three years on 11 August after publishing an article quoting a former minister accusing Magufuli of corruption.

CPJ further disclosed that dozens of newspapers have also been taken off the streets for what the government described as licensing violations.

However, Tanzania's government spokesman Hassan Abbas rejected claims that the Magufuli administration sought to muzzle the media.

"You have to look at each issue case by case,'' he told CPJ in a telephone conversation.

"The minister followed the law in taking each decision and each of the papers and stations had committed a violation. Journalists need to understand that there are limits to media freedom. You can't just defame a president and get away with it."

Abbas said a decision on the two stations would be taken when the regulatory committee convened a meeting on the issue, but did not say when this might happen.
-0- PANA MLJ/VAO 1Sept2016

01 september 2016 15:45:25

xhtml CSS