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Tanzania draw criticism for newspaper ban

Media practitioners and regional lawyers have condemned the decision by the Tanzanian government to ban The EastAfrican newspaper.

The Tanzanian authorities imposed a ban on the regional weekly newspaper over claims it “has been circulating in the country without having registration.”

The letter communicating the ban was dated January 21 and ordered an immediate stop to publication, printing and circulation of The EastAfrican in Tanzania.

“That was very extreme and unwarranted. Tanzania has a media industry regulator and if the government felt the paper had gone to the extreme there is the due process to be followed,” said Victor Bwire, the deputy chief executive of Media Council of Kenya (MCK).

Mr Bwire said the decision to ban the publication was an affront to the freedom of expression and a big loss to the publishers, the Nation Media Group (NMG).

East African Law Society council member Ms Harriette Chiggai said that apart from violating the freedom of expression, the ban also undermines the spirit of integration among the East African nations.

GOVERNMENT INTOLERANCE

Ms Chiggai said the decision did not give the publisher the opportunity to be heard, which is a requirement of the natural justice.

“My advice would be that NMG should write a formal complaint to the EALS chairman who also happens to be a citizen of Tanzania who will then bring it up for discussion by the regional lawyers,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mr Bwire said MCK will use the forthcoming regional meeting of the East African media regulators to reach out to their counterparts in Tanzania over their government’s seeming intolerance.

“We are also working on an East African media protocol and therein we shall express our concerns about media freedom in the region,” he said.

Before the letter was issued, the Director of Information Services and Government Spokesman Assa Mwambene had summoned The EastAfrican’s bureau chief Christopher Kidanka on Wednesday to express his discontent with the newspaper’s reporting and analysis, including opinion articles.