Tanzania Shuts Down Newspaper for Publishing Falsehoods

The Tanzanian government has suspended a local newspaper for 30 days after accusing it of publishing false information despite President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s earlier promise to promote freedom of the media. Raia Mwema, a Swahili-language weekly, was suspended for 30 days from 6 September 2021, becoming the second paper to be shuttered following the suspension of Uhuru in August this year.

A government spokesperson accused Raia Mwema of “repeatedly publishing false information and deliberate incitement”. The director of information services, Gerson Msigwa, said the newspaper was suspended in accordance with Section 59 (2) of the Information Services Act, 2016, which gives the Minister of Information the powers to ban any newspaper.

One of the stories that the government said was false relates to a gunman who went on the rampage and killed four people. The paper linked the gunman to the ruling CCM party. Msigwa said “they sought to convince the public beyond reasonable doubt that Hamza (the now-deceased gunman), was a CCM cadre or leader. This could lead to hatred among members and other social groups.”

Uhuru newspaper, on the other hand, was closed for publishing a story saying Hassan would not run for the presidency in 2025. The government said the story was false.

When Hassan came into power, she ordered the re-opening of media houses that were shut during the term of her predecessor, the late John Magufuli, raising hopes of an improved media freedom environment.

However, the shutting down of the two newspapers points to the fact that more still needs to be done to improve the Tanzanian media landscape.

MISA position

  • The shutting down of the two newspapers is uncalled for and we call on the government to reverse this undemocratic move.
  • Tanzania has slipped in all media freedom indices, as media houses are being shut with alarming regularity.
  • We call on the government to immediately repeal the Information Services Act and replace it with a new law that promotes freedom of the media, rather than one that gives the authorities power to shut down newspapers.

Source: MISA Zimbabwe

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