Tanzania suppresses digital freedom, Covid-19 reporting with new regulations
Cape Town – The Tanzanian government has introduced new internet regulations that prohibit the publication of content under 10 categories, squash the organisation of protests online and enable authorities to convict Tanzanians based on WhatsApp messages.
The Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2020, which were published on July 17 and approved by Tanzanian Information Minister Harrison Mwakyembe, have recently been made public, The Citizen reported.
“Contents that are involved in planning, organising, promoting and calling for demonstrations, marches or the like that would lead to public disorder are prohibited,” the new regulations state.
Publishing content on topics such as sexuality, personal privacy, public security, public safety, religion and false or misleading information is also prohibited under the new regulations.
Content posted about Covid-19 or any other future pandemic is illegal, too, without approval from the country’s authorities.
The Citizen Digital reported today that a new poster urges citizens to take photos of messages or any posts on WhatsApp or Facebook and send them to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) if they contain misleading information about Covid-19 in the country.
According to the BBC, this would make it possible for citizens to be convicted for messages they send on WhatsApp.
Furthermore, online marketing of specific medical products, such as weight-loss and dietary supplements, have also been banned, according to The Citizen.
Any publication that wishes to publish information regarding these topics is required to obtain a licence from Tanzanian authorities.
Disregard for the regulations will result in a fine of a minimum $2 200 (R37 961) or a 12-month prison sentence or both.
Some Tanzanians are pointing to the country’s general election in October as the reason behind the government's new limits on free speech.
Tanzanian activists say these regulations infringe on citizen’s freedom of expression, according to the BBC.
TCRA head of licensing Andrew Kisaka told The Citizen that the objective of the new regulations is to “increase citizen’s awareness and increase compliance”.
African News Agency (ANA)