Tag Archives: media law

Another Tanzanian newspaper is suspended. This time, by its own management

“Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.”

Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University and author of “On Tyranny, twenty lessons from the twentieth century

Nipashe Jumapili, a Sunday newspaper owned by media tycoon Reginald Mengi, has been suspended from publication for three months. This makes the paper the fifth to be suspended since President Magufuli came into office in November 2015, after Mawio, RaiaMwema, MwanaHalisi and Tanzania Daima. What makes this case different, however, is that the paper was not suspended by the government’s Information Services Department, but by its own management.

The paper announced the decision on Sunday afternoon, explaining that an article published in the paper that very morning had fallen short of their own standards, that it had put at risk the good relations that exist between Tanzania and Rwanda. They also offered personal apologies to Presidents John Magufuli of Tanzania and Paul Kagame of Rwanda for having published the article.

Nipashe Jumapili, 14/1/2018: “JPM akerwa wanaomtaka adumu urais kama Kagame”

The government issued a statement welcoming the paper’s decision. It came with a clear message to the Tanzanian press: “We must remind ourselves, journalism is more than a business, it is a profession, and so you have a major responsibility to respect journalistic ethics and accountability.”

The paper’s offending article discusses President Magufuli’s reaction to calls for him to stay in office beyond two five-year terms. The President recently dismissed such suggestions as unconstitutional, which was widely covered in the Tanzanian media.

“JPM akerwa wanaomtaka adumu urais kama Kagame,” ran the headline: Magufuli disappointed by those who want him to stay in office like Kagame. The article ends with a description of changes made to term limit laws in Rwanda and Burundi in recent years. With Kagame visiting Tanzania right now, there is some sensitivity in the timing: drawing attention to the difference between Tanzania and Rwanda’s positions might embarrass one or both presidents.

Since it has come up, lets indulge in a brief digression on term limits – a topic which for many years has been beyond discussion in Tanzania. Each time an incumbent president reached the end of their second term, the international press would express first doubt, then surprise, then praise when the outgoing president made no attempt to change the rules or block the handover to their successor. Tanzanians would only shrug: it simply wasn’t an issue. Unlike in Rwanda.

There are signs that this is no longer the case. CCM politicians and other have made several calls for changes in recent months, which the President has dismissed. In most cases, the suggestion is that the length of the presidential term could be increased from 5-7 years. But some are also asking whether the President might be looking for a way to stay in office beyond two terms. Answers are often uncertain.

Lets get back, though, to the main issue at hand – Nipashe Jumapili’s self-imposed suspension. Self-censorship has always been part of the media. All over the world, editors and their advisors make daily decisions about what they should or should not print. Sometimes, whether for legal or political reasons or something else entirely, they decide it’s not worth the risk.

But too much self-censorship becomes a cause for concern. When editors are fearful, important stories never see the light of day, and democracy recedes a little further into the darkness. 

And has there ever been such a extensive and transparent act of self-censorship as suspending your own newspaper for three months?

Nipashe, 15/1/18

The Monday issue of Nipashe – the suspended paper’s weekday sister paper – has two prominent stories on its front page. The first – “Kumradhi Rais Magufuli, Paul Kagame wa Rwanda” – addresses the matter directly: Asking forgiveness from President Magufuli, Paul Kagame of Rwanda. The second is hardly any more subtle: “Neema tano ziara Kagame Tanzania” – Five good things from Kagame’s visit to Tanzania.

It brings to mind a medieval court, where a courtier finds they have inadvertently insulted the King. Rather than wait for the King to have their head removed, the courtier rushes to prove their remorse by subjecting themself to brutal punishment, hoping to earn the King’s mercy.

The suspension may have been decided by the media house’s own management in an extreme case of anticipatory obedience. Or it may have been “negotiated” by a grovelling editor or proprietor, hoping to escape a longer or more comprehensive punishment. Sunday papers make little money and have little influence in Tanzania: the weekday version is what matters.

Might it be possible that this shouldn’t be considered a case of self-censorship at all?

Yesterday was Access to Information Day 2017. Meanwhile, in Tanzania …

Mwananchi, 29/9/17

As we marked Access to Information Day, 2017 …

… the communications regulator – TCRA – held a consultation on proposed new online content regulations. Among other things, the regulations would require all bloggers and online forums to register with TCRA, to identify any readers or users who post comments or other content, and to pre-moderate all user-submitted content. The implications for blogs and other platforms for public debate and whistle-blowing, including the hugely popular Jamii Forums, would be devastating. Continue reading

Wapo! The song that got rapper Nay wa Mitego locked up – A rough translation

Nay wa Mitego, on release from police custody

Tanzanian rapper, Nay wa Mitego was locked up on Sunday, for a song. He was released on Monday, after the intervention of President Magufuli and the new Minister of Information, Harrison Mwakyembe, and permission was given for the song to be played.

The President also offered some advice to revise the lyrics, and an invitation to meet and discuss how the song could be “improved”.

The BBC has more details, and this background context is also significant.

Here’s my rough translation, compiled with some assistance from others better qualified than myself. A word of warning though: much of the Swahili in the song is not to be found in any dictionary, so our translations and interpretations are open to challenge – I will happily make corrections if you point them out. And apologies that my translation has lost most of the (considerable) poetry of the original.

Wapo! (There are!), by Nay wa Mitego

What you plant today is what you will reap tomorrow
It’s been written that men must earn through sweat
I ask now who has seen tomorrow
Get moving and if you sleep you have nothing Continue reading

“Be careful, watch it!” – Translated excepts from speech of President Magufuli

Earlier today (March 24, 2017), President Magufuli spoke at a ceremony in to formally appoint new Ministers and Ambassadors. He referred directly to two significant events earlier this week, the visit of World Bank President Jim Kim (see also this sharp-eyed post by Aikande Kwayu) and yesterday’s events in the car park of St Peters Catholic Church in Dar es Salaam. Among other things, the President had some interesting things to say about the media in Tanzania.

I have translated some key excerpts below the video.

Continue reading

Mwangosi verdict leaves a lot of questions, and a bitter taste

Mwangosi

A court in Iringa today sentenced police officer Pacifius Simon to 15 years imprisonment for the manslaughter of journalist Daud Mwangosi in September 2012. In one sense, this brings the case to a close. But it is a very unsatisfactory ending. Continue reading

Tanzania’s Statistics, Cybercrime, Media Services and Access to Information Bills: what the cartoonists say

For context, see the following two posts:

First up, two cartoons that focus on the secrecy under which two of these bills were initially brought to parliament:

Nipashe, 19/3/15

Nipashe, 19/3/15

Continue reading

Chart #40: What do Tanzanians think of media freedoms?

As usual, the latest release of Afrobarometer 2014 data and analysis on Tanzania has some very interesting findings. For advocates of media freedoms, it doesn’t make for very comfortable reading. And in a context where newspapers can (and have been) closed down, and where there are new restraints on space for public debate, this matters.

First, two charts that show a decline in support in Tanzania for having an independent and critical media since previous surveys in 2008 and 2012: Continue reading