Tanzania newspapers set to seek new registration each year at Tsh 1,000,000/-, but this regulation may be changed.
By TZ Business News Staff.
The controversial recently passed Tanzania Media Service Act 2016 contains some 38 regulations which change the way the media operates in Tanzania, including a government plan to force all adverts from public enterprises and government departments to pass through one clearing house in Dar es Salaam; The regulations also force all newspapers to pay an annual newspaper registration fee of Tsh. 1,000,000/-.
But these regulations created to implement the Act can be scrapped if media stakeholders can prove cause and the need for change seen valid, the Government has said.
The Director of Tanzania Information Services who is also the main government spokesperson, Dr. Hassan Abbas, recently told reporters in Zanzibar Tanzania Media Service regulations are created by the Minister through powers provided in the Act, which means the Minister can undo the regulations as he or she deems fit, without changing the Act.
The Director was responding to questions and comments following his presentation on the new media regulatory atmosphere in the wake of the Tanzania Media Service Act No. 12 of 2016 enacted by the Parliament of United Republic of Tanzania on 5th November 2016 and assented to by President John Pombe Magufuli on 16th November 2016.
Regulations created by the Minister for Information, Culture and Sports to exercise powers granted by this Act, include centralized decision making on where, how, when and whether a public enterprise or government department can advertise. Other regulations include a demand that all newspapers shall now be forced to renew their newspaper registration certificates every year at a cost of Tsh. 1,000,000/-, Dr. Abbas said.
Under the new regulations, foreigners are allowed to own shares in a news publishing enterprise only up to 49%, leaving the rest of the shares to nationals. It is also the duty of all news organizations to be conscious and to uphold the patriotic requirements for national security.
On advertising, the Government spokesman said it had been discovered marketing officials in public enterprises and Government departments have for years exploited their freedom to advertise wherever they wished to enrich themselves by placing adverts even where there was no good reason. Some adverts were published just because some official was broke and they wanted to justify a 10% discount or even better from the advertising outlet– which comes back in the form of cash.
From now on, Dr. Abbas said, all adverts from public enterprises and government departments will be cleared, designed and distributed by a department to be created at the Tanzania Information Services where he is in charge. Advertising agents soliciting for adverts from public enterprises and government departments will now be directed to solicit the adverts from Tanzania Information Services, he said.
One reporter described this regulation as a return to socialist-era Tanzania when the Government interfered with the day-to-day business operations of public enterprises which led to failure. The reporter advised other ways to control and manage problems identified should be applied without returning to the past when the Government interfered with the day-to-day business operations of public enterprises. It was at this point that the Director said these regulations could be changed if need was seen valid.
The new Act is highly disputed. The Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), Legal and Human Right Centre (LHRC), and Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) have already lodged a petition at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to challenge the newly passed Media Service Act No.12 of 2016.
The petitioners to the suit are challenging sections of the Media Services Act (MSA) 2016 that are deemed to be a threat to press freedom and freedom of expression and thereby constitute a violation of Tanzania’s obligation under the East African Treaty to uphold and protect human and peoples’ rights standards as specified in Articles 6(d), 7(2) of the Treaty”.
A statement signed by MCT Executive Secretary Kajubi Mukajanga says Article 6(d) of the EAC treaty provides the principles of the community to be good governance including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, equal opportunities, gender equality, as well as the recognition, promotion and protection of human and people’s rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right.
Article 7(2)of the EAC Treaty provides that the Partner States undertake to abide by the principles of good governance, including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, social justice and the maintenance of universally accepted standards of human rights. In addition, pursuant to Article 8(1) (c) of the Treaty, Tanzania has undertaken to “abstain from any measures likely to jeopardise the achievement of those objectives or the implementation of the provisions of the Treaty.
The Media Services Act, according to the parties to the suit comes as an unjustified restriction on the freedom of expression and of the press, which is a cornerstone of the principle of democracy, rule of law, accountability, transparency and good governance.
Tanzania is a partner state of the East African Community having acceded to the Treaty on 7th July 2000. Under Article 23 of the Treaty, the EACJ is tasked with ensuring the adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the Treaty.
The EACJ has confirmed a previous its case that it is the only appropriate Court to rule on questions regarding the interpretation and application of Partners States’ obligations under the Treaty. The Court has previously held that interpretation of the question whether Articles 6(d) and 7(2) of the Treaty have been violated squarely falls within the ambit of its jurisdiction.