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Tanzania: Newspaper Shut Down by Government

The media industry in Tanzania has received with great astonishment news of the closure of MwanaHalisi newspaper. A government report posted on Wavuti blog explained in brief that:

The government has decided to close down the production of Mwanahalisi for an unknown period of according to the Newspaper Act of 1976,clause(25)(i). The clause will be in effect from July 30th, 2012 based on the government notice 258 published on the government newspaper produced in Dar es Salaam on 27th July, 2012.

The edition that led to the closure of the paper. Photo courtesy of Mabadiliko Forums.

The edition that led to the closure of the paper. Photo courtesy of Mabadiliko Forums.

The notice adds:

The government requires the owners, editors and journalists to abide by the law, patriotism, follow the guidelines and ethics of journalism in their aim to spread news, inform and entertain people.

Through this notice, the government explains that the reasons for closing down the publication include the presence of articles and news that incite violence, enmity and give citizens a reason to doubt the authorities.

Professor Joseph Mbele, the blogger behind hapa kwetu, commented on the closure of Mwanahalisi, saying:

If the government was wiser, it would have thought about the issues raised by Dr.Ulimboka [the spokesman for Tanzanan doctors who was abducted and tortured by unidentified people during their strike] as reported in the Mwanahalisi. Closing down this paper will increase people's fear that the government is involved in the attack on Dr.Ulimboka

It is probable that the government is not involved, but this actions may be detrimental to the government itself.

He concludes by saying:

I am not pleased with the interference of my right to read whatever I please. I am an adult with my own brains. I can discern what I read. When the government closes a paper or bans a book, it is an insult on the people as it translates to mean that they can't read and interpret on their own.

Geophrey Mlewa through Facebook asks:

Where, are we heading to with such dictatorship? They claim that the law was not followed, but had it been stories praising the government would they have closed it down?

Tumaini Anthony responds to Geophrey's post:

…the stones will talk.Amen!

Facebook user Hilda M. Mbangati writes on the opinion section of Geophrey's page:

Duuh, this is the government! CCM hurrah…

Simon Mkina was tagged in a Facebook picture that had Mwanahalisi with the caption:

R.I.P MwanaHalisi, now let us read the rumuors.

On his Facebook page, Ismail Mbuyu writes:

The closure of Mwanahalisi has hurt me.I hope that president Kikwete will open it. Why? It will reveal weaknesses of his leaders.How will Kubenea [the Acting Editor of the paper] get innermost details when he is not at the source? Let the journal continue giving us the facts. It is upon the government to check its house not Kubenea

The notice of the paper's closure was announced on JamiiForums, which generated the following comments:

The government wants to seal our lips so that we do not know of their evils and continue being in darkness.

Ndahani wrote:

Haaahaa! Kubenea [Mwanahalisi Acting Editor] exposed this people.

JF Senior Expert Member Osokoni asks:

Why is Radio Imani that preaches religious hatred still not closed? Are there double standards in the media?

Ritz adds:

That was a clean move to close the paper as it spread violence and hate amongst the people. However, this move is a little too late.

This is not the first time the paper has been banned – it was withdrawn for three months in 2008. The history of banning newspapers in Tanzania began a long time ago. In Kulikoni Ughaibuni blog by Chahali, there is an article that questions freedom of information in Tanzania: ‘Is the problem the state, fear or self-protection?’

There are still many questions about media freedom in Tanzania: What will happen to other media outlets? What does the Opposition have to say about this issue? Let's wait and see.

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