New Media Law
The year under review also witnessed
the enactment of the new media law
in Tanzania - the Media Services Act
(MSA) no. 12, 2016 and its regulations
of 2017. This long-awaited law comes
with stiff challenges and even bigger
threats to the entire media industry, and
this has triggered a national outcry from
both media and human rights defenders
and the public at large.

The MSA also introduced a new element
- which gives the Director of Information
Services under section 5(i) the mandate
to coordinate all government advertisements and he has a power to determine
where to publish on the same. This is excessive power he might use against private media if he feels they are not publishing stories which pleases the state.

The MSA has created a number of bodies which in one way or another to undermine the freedom of the media. The
Journalist Accreditation Board, whose
members are appointed by the Minister under section 12 of the Law has the
mandate to accredit and discredit journalists. This body however, works under
the instruction of the Minister responsible for information. This is open to
abuse, in that, a journalist critical to the
government can be removed from the
journalists’ roll at any time.

Section 52(1) which then talks about
“seditious intention” also punishes journalists who publish stories which are regarded seditious.The term is open to interpretation. This could have detrimental
effect on investigative journalism.

Another body created by the Act is
called the Independent Media Council under section 24 of the Act. On the
surface it would seem that this body is
run by journalists themselves and it has
been given powers to, amongst other
issues, develop a code of ethics and
promote ethical and professional standards. However, all these duties have to
be undertaken in collaboration with the
Accreditation Board. In the other words,
the Accreditation Board, which is under
the Minister responsible for Information
will act as overseer of the Independent
Media Council.

In addition to the contentious clauses,
the Media Services Act, 2016 and its
Regulations have several areas which
add value to the media industry. The Act
also recognises journalism as a profession by setting standards for the qualifications of journalist. The minimum
standards for one to be recognised as a
journalist under this Act are to possess
a Diploma in Journalism from a recognised institution.

Under Section 50(2) of the Act a journalist who operates without accreditation
or who has failed to renew his or her
license on time due to financial grounds
will be liable to a fine of not less than
five million shillings or a jail term of not


less than three years. The act provides
for minimum penalties and fines.

So This is Democracy? 2016

The MSA criminalises defamation and
this part of the law has been copied from
the repealed News Papers Act, 1976.
The intention of criminalization of journalists and media fraternity is built under part VII - Offences & Penalties.

The Act sets obligations for the print
media - e.g. Journalists are required to
uphold Tanzanians natural sovereignty,
unit, security and both economic and
diplomatic interests. The Act requires
media to preserve Tanzania cultural value, identity and observe good taste and
decency and public morality.
Journalists are also required to exercise

great care when reporting incidents of
torture, ill treatment of people or animals, dead or mutilated bodies, people
in extreme pain or at the point of death,
molestation or abusive treatment against

Culture, Artists and Sports, under Nape
Nnauye and of Justice and Constitutional Affairs under Dr Harrison Mwakyembe were eventually able to table the two
bills in 2016, and have them approved
by Parliament and eventually passed.

The Media Services Act, 2016 and its
Regulations has a number of problematic clauses and numerous stakeholders which include the Media Council of
Tanzania (MCT) and the Union of Tanzania Press Clubs, have filed a Constitutional case before the High Court of
Tanzania and the East African Court of
Justice to challenge the constitutionality
of the Media Services Act.

Despite the fact that the two laws are
not of the exact quality that stakeholders
wished for, they do have certain sections
that have somehow included stakeholders opinions.

. . . this has triggered
a national outcry from
both media and human
rights defenders.
In 2015, after a silence of almost a decade, push and pull between the media
stakeholders and the government, there
was a move by the latter to enact two
bills, namely the Access to Information
Bill 2015 and Media Services Bill 2015
under a certificate of urgency.
This move was vehemently opposed by
stakeholders, and eventually the Parliament refused to continue with the enactment processes and asked the government to use normal route for enactment
of laws which involves public consultations. It was through these consultations
and pressure from both within and outside that the Ministries of Information,

Free Expression Online Under
Massive Scrutiny
“Any person who publishes information,
data or facts presented in a picture, text,
symbol or any other form in a computer
system where such information, data
or fact is false, deceptive, misleading
or inaccurate commits an offence, and
shall on conviction be liable to a fine not
less than three million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not less than six
months or to both”.
This is the infamous Section 16 of Tanzania’s Cybercrime Act of 2015. Two
citizens who know this law rather intimately are Maxence Mello of Jamii Forums and netizen Isaac Habakuk Emily
from Arusha. The two and countless others have appeared in courts on charges
of “insulting” the country’s president,
John Magufuli or for allegedly misusing the social media. Surprisingly, it has
been hard for the state to prove malice
in most of these cases, and subsequently
their cases have been thrown out by the
court. Undoubtedly, 2016 was the year
of court cases related to online content.

So This is Democracy? 2016


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