January 28, 2016 - Updated on March 8, 2016

Government uses draconian law to ban newspaper for good

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the government’s decision to permanently ban the privately-owned Swahili-language weekly newspaper Mawio and the brief detention of two of the newspaper’s journalists.

Neither the print nor online version of Mawio has been available since the ban was announced on 15 January. The police arrested the two journalists, Jabir Idrissa and Simon Mkina on Monday 18, interrogated them at length and then released them on bail.

Mawio was shut down because of its coverage of the political crisis in the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago, which has been tense since the cancellation of its presidential election in October.

The Tanzanian government does not like the media covering the story, especially as part of the population favours more autonomy for Zanzibar and it was the pro-autonomy Civic United Front that was proclaimed winner of the election later declared invalid by the government.

Information minister Nape Nnauye said Mawio was banned under the 1976 media law, which empowers the government to ban any publication.

“The government regrets taking this decision but it was compelled to act due to the newspaper’s continuous writing and publication of content that is inciteful and threatening to the peace, stability and security of our country,” Nnauye said.

RSF already criticized this law in 2013, when two daily newspapers, Mwananchi and Mtanzania, were temporarily closed.

“It is very disappointing that Tanzania’s new government has banned a newspaper just a few months after its election,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We reiterate our appeal to the Tanzanian legislature to replace the 1976 law, which endangers freedom of information.”

Tanzania has fallen 34 places in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index since 2010 and is now ranked 75th out of 180 countries.