Tanzania forces forums, blogs and streaming sites to comply with draconian regulations

Nairobi, June 12, 2018 – Tanzanian authorities should immediately repeal regulations that require online forums, blogs and streaming websites to register with the government – a process that requires them to pay fees. ‘entry and comply with draconian regulations – and withdraw threats of legal action for non-compliance, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has issued a directive which went into effect yesterday ordering unregistered websites to comply with Electronic and Postal Communications Regulations (online content) or stop posting. Those who fail Register by June 15 will face legal action, according to media reports which cited the directive and regulations.

The rules, which was originally published in March 2018 by Information Minister Harisson Mwakyembe, set high registration fees that require bloggers and forum hosts to pay an upfront fee of $ 484 and an annual fee of $ 440 .

The rules also allow the government to remove anonymity from online users, requiring websites to “put in place mechanisms to identify” those who interact on the forums, and require internet cafes to keep user logs until. 12 months. In addition, the regulations allow the government to force websites to remove “banned” content, at large include items that “cause discomfort”.

According to a Monday report by Reuters, several websites, including an online discussion platform Jamii Forums, have chosen to temporarily close in response to the directive.

Failure to comply with these regulations can result in a prison sentence of up to 12 months and fines of up to five million Tanzanian shillings (US $ 2,200).

“The policies of President John Magufuli are aggressively eroding the diversity and robustness of online media in Tanzania and by extension in East Africa. This policy flies in the face of Tanzania’s democratic goals, ”said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal of New York. “We urge the authorities to remove these problematic regulations and allow the free press to flourish online. “

TCRA spokesperson Semu Mwakyanjala told CPJ today reports that the registration process was expensive was exaggerated and said the government was acting in “good faith to recognize” content providers. . He said around 50 content providers have been registered since the regulation was published in March. Information Minister Harrison Mwakyembe could not be reached on his cell phone for comment.

Jamii Forums co-founder Maxence Melo told CPJ that complying with online content regulations would violate the guarantee of anonymity that users, some of them whistleblowers, wait for the platform.

Content rules were originally intended for entered into force on May 5, but were temporarily arrested following a lawsuit brought by Jamii Forums and a group of rights organizations, according to media reports. The country’s High Court overturned the ruling on May 27, ruling that the applicants had not sufficiently demonstrated their standing in the case, according to court documents seen by CPJ.

Elsie Eyakuze, editor of The Mikocheni report Blog, who has been online since 2008, in May announcement that she “froze” the blog because of the new regulations, according to a statement on the website and a Reuters report.

In April, the BBC reported than Krantz Mwantepele, whose website Mwanaharakati Mzalendo covers politics and social issues, was concerned about having to lay off some of its staff due to regulations.

During John Magufuli’s presidency, CPJ documented an increase in hostility towards the media in Tanzania, including newspaper closings, heavy fines on television stations and the disappearance of investigative journalist Azory Gwanda, in November 2017. Jamii Forums was also charged with obstructing justice for refusing to reveal the identity of whistleblowers and for hosting a domain outside of Tanzania, which led to three separate and protracted court cases, according to research by the Collaboration on International ICT Police in East and South Africa (CIPESA). The founders of the company were acquitted of charges in one of the cases on June 1, but hearings for two more cases are ongoing, according to CIPESA and Melo.

Harry L. Blanchard