UN HRC: UPR outcome of the United Republic of Tanzania

Item 6: UPR outcome of the United Republic of Tanzania

Oral Statement

22 September 2016

Delivered by Lucy Bye, ARTICLE 19

Mr. President,

ARTICLE 19 thanks Member States for recommendations made to Tanzania during its second Universal Periodic Review to specifically advance protections for freedom of expression and information.

Despite protections for these rights in Tanzania’s Constitution, numerous laws incompatible with Tanzania’s international and regional obligations on freedom of expression remain in place and are abused; they must be urgently reviewed.

We welcome Tanzania’s commitment to investigate promptly continuing attacks and threats against journalists and to ensure justice and redress for victims. Tanzania must themselves commit to end harassment of journalists reporting on malpractice and maladministration in public offices, including through the abuse of the 1962 Regions and Regional Commissioners Act and the 1962 Area Commissioner Act.

We welcome recommendations to amend the recently adopted Cybercrimes Act to ensure compatibility with the right to free expression and privacy. The law fails to protect whistle-blowers, or to ensure proper safeguards for searches, and imposes disproportionate minimal custodial and financial sanctions. The Act must be reformed.

The media are facing an increasingly restrictive environment. The 1976 Newspaper Act continues to be used to intimidate independent media and silence critical voices. Broad powers granted to the Minister of Information to ban or close media, and powers to police to seize publications in what amounts to prior censorship violate international law. Stringent registration requirements for print media, including excessive criminal sanction, are routinely abused to restrict free expression. The entire Act must be repealed.

Tanzania should abolish sedition offences, and decriminalise defamation, introducing civil remedies in its place. Powerful individuals can abuse these laws to limit legitimate criticism. As the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights decided in Konate v Burkina Faso in 2014, such laws are incompatible with the African Charter.

ARTICLE 19 further calls on Tanzania to adopt an Access to Information Bill, as committed to in the first cycle, to effectively guarantee the right to obtain and impart information. The right should be secured free of charge for information requesters. Exemptions to disclosure must be narrowly and clearly defined, and criminal sanctions for public officials who release information must be removed.

Thank you.