Two Tanzania’s privately-owned Swahili newspapers, Mwananchi and MTanzania, have been suspended by the ‘dictatorial’ government of Jakaya Kikwete for 14 and 90 days respectively, sparking a strong condemnation this week from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Mwananchi’s suspension was in connection with a story published on July 17, called “New Government Salary Scheme 2013”, CPJ reports. The article was allegedly based on a classified document. The newspaper’s managing-editor Tido Mhando said the paper published the article to inform the public.
MTanzania, part of the New Habari Publishers company, was banned in connection with articles titled “The Bloody Presidency,” published on March 20, “Revolution Cannot Be Avoided,” published on June 12 and “The Government Stinks of Blood”.
These articles alleged police involvement in attacks against citizens and suggested government incompetency in contending with terrorist threats, CPJ said.
“The government could have taken their grievances against Mwananchi and MTanzania to the Media Council of Tanzania, an ombudsman, rather than summarily suspending the publications,” CPJ East Africa consultant Tom Rhodes said in a statement published on the media watchdog’s website.
“We call on authorities to allow the papers to resume publication and to reform the laws that allow these suspensions, which are not in line with international standards of press freedom.”
Tanzanian authorities often rely on an arsenal of anti-media laws, such as the 1976 Newspaper Act that allows the Information Ministry wide discretionary powers to ban publications, according to CPJ research.
Photo: Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, his government is becoming increasingly hostile against private media