Tanzania: Decriminalization of defamation campaign
10 Jul 2014
ARTICLE 19 welcomes the new campaign aimed at decriminalizing defamation, insult, publication of false news and sedition laws in Tanzania. The campaign is part of a continent-wide effort led by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa is leading the campaign in the Eastern Africa sub-region.
The campaign kicked off with a two day strategy meeting held in Dar Es Salaam which was officially opened on 8 July by the Honourable Angela Kairuki, Deputy Minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs. In her address, she said the government is ready to guarantee freedom of expression and engage stakeholders in changing media laws.
“Tanzania is currently crafting a new constitution and we urge the government to take advantage of this opportunity to repeal all criminal defamation laws since they fail to strike the appropriate balance between the right to freedom of expression and the right to a reputation,” said Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Regional Director during the conference.
Participants drawn from academia, journalists, media associations, human rights defenders and civil society noted that Tanzania’s traditional media has in the recent past, witnessed suspension and even indefinite bans imposed on some of the newspapers - allegedly for publishing false news. Government policy makers have used Article 30 of the 1977 Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania (as amended in 2005) to justify the repressive media laws.
These laws among other administrative edicts continue to be incessantly used in Tanzania to prosecute journalists, media owners, newspaper vendors and political commentators often deemed by the ruling elite to be voices of dissent and opposition. As such, they criminalise various types of expression and prevent serious analytical reporting and debate on matters of public interest for fear of long periods of imprisonment and huge fines.
ARTICLE 19 has consistently advocated for the repeal of criminal defamation laws since they fail to strike the appropriate balance between the right to freedom of expression and the right to a reputation. We believe that all criminal defamation laws should be abolished and replaced, where necessary, with proportionate civil remedies.
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