June 12, 2018

Tanzania’s most popular site banned from posting new content

Maxence Melo, le fondateur de Jamii Forums en Tanzanie. © DANIEL HAYDUK / AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Tanzanian authorities to repeal a law regulating online content under which Jamii Forums, one of the country’s most visited news websites, has been unable to post any reports for the past 24 hours without running the risk of a criminal prosecution.

As from yesterday, all websites and blogs are banned by the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) from posting any further content until they have complied with the new law, which was adopted in March.

Tanzania’s most famous online platform, with more than 526,000 Twitter followers, Jamii Forums is refusing to comply with the new law’s requirement that news websites reveal the identity of their sources and their contributors at the request of the authorities.

Website owners and blog editors must also pay for a licence and cover other costs that amount to an average of about 900 US dollars a year.

All news websites and blogs that are not in compliance with the new law by 15 June could be banned from posting new content for good and could be prosecuted. The possible penalties include permanent closure, a fine of up to 2,200 dollars and a 12-month prison sentence.

“Some online information providers are going to disappear because they cannot afford the exorbitant cost of a licence, while others, such as Jamii Forums, may have to cease operating in Tanzania for good because the authorities want them to reveal their sources,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The Tanzanian authorities must repeal this law and must stop targeting critics who found a safe haven online.”

Tanzania sustained one of the biggest falls – nine places – in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 93rd out of 180 countries.