ARTICLE 19 welcomes the ruling by the East African Court of Justice, First Instance Division on 21 June 2018 annulling the order that had banned local newspaper Mseto and subsequently ordering the Minister for Information, Culture and Sports to allow the publication back in business. The ruling is a bold and positive development in the protection of press freedom in East Africa.
On 11 August 2016, then minister Nape Nnauye, banned Mseto newspaper under the now defunct Newspapers Act of 1976, accusing it of publishing an erroneous and seditious story implicating a government minister in a corrupt deal meant to raise funds for President John Magufuli’s election campaigns. Nnauye accused the newspaper of a “tendency of reporting irresponsibly” and said it had been “warned several times for the last five years.”
The East Africa Court of Justice in delivering the ruling stated that the Tanzanian government had failed to show sufficient justifiable grounds for the ban, and that the action therefore amounted to violation of the right of freedom of expression as per Article 18(1) of the Constitution of Tanzania, Articles 19(3) of the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) and 27(2) of the African Charter.
The Court observed that “by issuing orders whimsically and which were merely his ‘opinions’ and by failing to recognize the right to freedom of expression and press freedom as a basic human right which should be protected, recognized and promoted in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter, the minister acted unlawfully.”
“This ruling is a huge win for freedom of expression in East Africa, and an important step towards respect for media freedom and free expression as fundamental human rights in the region. ARTICLE 19 is pleased to see that the substantial threat to freedom of expression represented by arbitrary media bans has been recognised by the regional Court,” said Henry Maina, Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.
“The continued ban of Mawio newspaper and other publications in the country is of great concern, and Tanzania should take this ruling as clear sign of its obligations to guarantee freedom of the media and end arbitrary bans,” added Maina.
ARTICLE 19 urges the Tanzanian government to reverse the ban on Mseto, and all other newspapers, in line with the Court’s ruling, without delay. We urge the government to end the suppression of independent media, bloggers and online communicators and to respect and uphold media freedom and the right to freedom of expression and information, in accordance with Tanzanian Constitution and international laws.
For more information, please contact Henry Maina, Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa at [email protected] or call on +254 727 862230