Dar es Salaam. Good morning! The Chanzo is here with a rundown of major news stories reported in Tanzania over the weekend.
Govt suspends Raia Mwema newspaper for 30 days over ‘false reporting’
The government on Sunday banned the independent newspaper Raia Mwema for thirty days starting from today, September 6, 2021, after accusing it of violating Tanzania’s laws and regulations governing the country’s media sector as well as journalism professional ethics by publishing “false, misleading, and seditious stories.”
According to a statement released by the government’s chief spokesperson Gerson Msigwa yesterday, the daily newspaper violated the terms of its license by publishing more than once stories that “risk endangering national security by inciting hatred within communities and cause people to hate their government and their leaders.”
The stories that landed the paper into trouble include the one published on August 21, 2021, which carried a headline that read, ‘Maumivu mapya 17,’ which literally means ‘Seventeen new pains.’ The government said the story was inappropriate because “it causes panic in the communities by telling people that the government is going to cause them some pain.”
The story concerned seventeen new levies imposed on entities such as bars and pharmacies that play songs by Tanzania’s singers. The levies purportedly aim at protecting the artists by making sure that they reap benefits from their work. But it is not clear under which arrangement are the levies going to be collected or how artists are going to get them.
Another story cited by the government to justify its decision to revoke the license of Raia Mwema is a story published on September 3, 2021, with a headline that read, ‘Hamza wa CCM hatari,’ which loosely translate to “CCM’s Hamza dangerous,’ which Mr Msigwa called “false and misleading.”
Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) is the ruling party in Tanzania. Hamza Hassan Mohamed killed three police officers and one civilian during the armed encounter that took place at the Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road from the Selandar Bridge area before he was neutralized. He was buried on August 29, 2021, at the Kisutu cemetery, in Dar es Salaam. There are reports that Hamza was a member of CCM.
Raia Mwema becomes the second newspaper to face suspension since President Samia Suluhu Hassan became the president in March 2021. On August 11, 2021, the government banned Uhuru newspaper, CCM’s mouthpiece, for allegedly publishing a false story about President Samia.
Uhuru had published a front-page story reading ‘Sina wazo kuwania uraisi 2025 – Samia,’ which translates to ‘I do not intend to run for the presidency in 2025 – Samia’ in English. The paper did the story based on an interview the Head of State, who doubles as CCM’s national chairperson, did with BBC Swahili on August 9, 2021.
Press freedom activists as well as members of Tanzania’s political opposition has slapped the emerging trend of suspending newspapers as “anti-democratic” and have called on President Samia to not walk away from her earlier commitment to safeguarding freedom of the press in the country.
On April 6, 2021, during a function to swear in newly appointed government officials, Samia the ban imposed on several online media outlets, saying she doesn’t want her administration to be accused of muzzling press freedom.
“[The suspension of Raia Mwema newspaper indicates the government’s willingness] to exploit the loopholes of bad laws to suppress press freedom and people’s right to be informed,” said CHADEMA Secretary-General John Mnyika in a Twitter post. “President Samia should direct that the ban against Raia Mwema be lifted.”
Mr Zitto Kabwe, ACT-Wazalendo party leader, described the ban as “ignorant and childish” that is violating the principles of press freedom and human rights. His party even issued a statement condemning the paper’s suspension.
Police block CHADEMA’s constitution forum, arrest its nine cadres
Opposition CHADEMA party said Saturday that police in the Mara district of Musoma arrested nine of its cadres in the wake of the party’s Youth Wing (BAVICHA) attempt to organize a symposium on constitutional reforms in the district.
BAVICHA planned to organize the symposium as part of its campaign calling on President Samia Suluhu Hassan to revive the stalled constitutional review process, saying that it is high time now that Tanzanians have a new contract with their leaders. President Samia has called on people to wait so that she can fix the economy before she embarks on constitutional issues.
According to a statement released by CHADEMA’s Director of Protocol, Communications and Foreign Policy Mr John Mrema on Saturday, police invaded the party’s office in the district and took with them the tents and chairs intended for the symposium.
Mara regional commissioner Mr Ally Happy announced on Friday, September 3, 2021, that there was going to be a regional cleaning exercise on Saturday but according to CHADEMA the exercise was just an excuse to stop the party’s youth from organizing the symposium.
“We strongly condemn this blatant violation of the [Tanzania’s] constitution and rule of law, sowing seeds of hatred, discrimination, and discord within communities,” Mr Mrema said in a statement.
Saturday’s incident took place against the background of a terrorism case against CHADEMA national chairperson Mr Freeman Mbowe and three other co-accused at the High Court (Corruption and Economic Crimes Division).
Mr Mbowe was brought before the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court for the first time on July 26, 2021, accused of taking part in conspiracies to blow up fueling stations and other public gatherings as well as funding terrorist acts.
He was arrested in Mwanza together with eleven other CHADEMA cadres — who have since been released — ahead of a New Constitution conference that BAVICHA had called and which Mr Mbowe was expected to be the guest of honour.
CHADEMA and other pro-democracy activists have dismissed the terrorism charges against Mr Mbowe as “trumped-up” and “politically motivated”; they have since then called for authorities to drop them.
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