Media bill would deny freedom of expression

If the media services bill is passed, the media will made the enemy of the state, journalists fear. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

If the Media Services bill is passed, the media will made the enemy of the state, journalists and media stakeholders fear. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

The Media Owners Association of Tanzania (MOAT) says the proposed Media Services bill is meant to silence journalists.

President Jakaya Kikwete’s administration already tried to push the Media Services Bill through with the certificate of emergency, before backlash from media stakeholders halted that process.

The bill is still set to be reviewed in parliament in this current budget session and Kikwete says he plans to sign the bill into law before he leaves office in October.

MOAT fears a hidden agenda because of the attempts to push it through with urgency and because no input from media stakeholders was sought when drafting the bill, says MOAT chairman Reginald Mengi.

Mengi, founder of IPP Media, says it’s sad that politicians use media as their mouthpiece and then dump them once they’ve gained power.

“These are not developmental laws. They are aimed at denying citizens their basic right to freedom of expression,” says Mengi.

“I am concerned about these laws because they affect me, both as a journalist and a media house owner,” says journalist Saed Kubenea.

Among the offenses are publishing fabricated or false information, operating a media outlet without registration, practicing journalism without accreditation, publishing seditious material and publishing prohibited information.

“Ours is becoming a nation where journalism is becoming a foe of the state day by day”

The bill would also require all journalists in Tanzania to be accredited by a minister-appointed board, which also has the power to remove journalists and impose fines.

It also says that all private electronic media houses must switch to the public broadcaster for news at 20:00 everyday to enable the public to follow issues of national interest.

Furthermore, it would prevent someone from owning more than one media house.

“Ours is becoming a nation where journalism is becoming a foe of the state day by day,” says Kubenea.

Read more: Media bill would kill free press

Read the Media Services Act 2015 (730kB)

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