Newspaper ban raises media freedom concerns

People read the papers Friday morning in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

People read the papers in Stone Town, Zanzibar. The ban of weekly newspaper Mawio has sparked renewed concern for media freedom in Tanzania. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

The permanent ban of weekly newspaper Mawio has sparked renewed concern over Tanzania’s ‘outdated’ media laws.

“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,” says chairman of the Tanzania Editors Forum Absalom Kibanda.

“We are shocked that they have instead taken us 10 years back, to the era of banning newspapers,” says Kibanda.

Mawio was banned for allegedly inciting violence in articles and its editors interrogated following publication of several contentious articles, including one which declared the opposition candidate the winner of Zanzibar’s annulled presidential elections and another which was titled ‘Unrest coming to Zanzibar.’

Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports Nape Nnauye says he had ‘tirelessly’ warned Mawio over inflammatory content in recent years.

“We are extremely concerned that Tanzanian news outlets are facing retaliation for reporting on the political crisis in Zanzibar,” says the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 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“We call on authorities to allow Mawio to publish freely and to set about changing the country’s outdated media laws that can be too easily abused to stifle the flow of information,” says Valentine.

The Mawio ban comes just days after a year-long ban was lifted on weekly regional paper the East African.

Under the 1976 Media Act there is no provision to appeal a ban.

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