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Tanzania Shuts Down Unregistered Blogs

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On Monday many Tanzanian blogging sites were shut down following the government’s enforcement of harsh new online content regulations. According to a report by Reuters, several websites, including online discussion platform Jamii Forums, have chosen to shut down temporarily in response to the directive.

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The directive emanates from a law which was passed last year that sought to deter the publication of content deemed to be ‘indecent, obscene, hate speech, extreme violence’ etc.

The regulation which was provisionally enforced in April this year by Tanzania’s Information Minister Harisson Mwakyembe set high registration fees that require bloggers and forum hosts to pay an initial fee of $484 and an annual fee of $440.

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The rules also allow the government to strip online users of anonymity, requiring websites to have in place mechanisms to identify those who interact on the forums and require that cyber (internet) cafes keep user logs for up to 12 months. Additionally, the regulations allow the government to force websites to take down prohibited content, broadly defined to include material that causes annoyance.

The regulations appear to be less about taxation but rather a convenient tool and a part of a wider process to limit freedom of speech and freedom of press.

Failure to comply with these regulations can carry a prison term of up to 12 months and fines of up to five million US$2,200. Most bloggers in Tanzania are individuals without registered companies, making it difficult for them to meet the new regulations.

Bloggers are furthermore required to reveal details of their shareholders, citizenship of owners and share capital.

Digital activists and human rights watchdogs quest to block the implementation of the regulations fell through two weeks ago after they lost a court case challenging the government on what they termed as a crackdown on free speech.

Blogging seems to be a new frontier for young Africans seeking new platforms to connect, discuss, share and analyze. With the rise of mobile phones, African youths are online more than ever.  Yet restrictions on freedom of expression pose a real challenge to social media users in Tanzania and Africa. While many constitutions in Africa profess to allow freedom of speech, they seem not guarantee freedom of press. 

3 thoughts on “Tanzania Shuts Down Unregistered Blogs

  1. This is not practical and will not last. Remember 2009 when traders were required to record serial numbers of all US$ notes received and given out…that never saw the light of day

  2. Its amazing how African governments always try to something they do not own or know how to make. You see, China is able to make such rules because if companies stop going to China, they are able to make adjustments and manufacture replacements.

    Its like our RBZ here, they are putting up all these investment laws and trying to control the flow of USD, but we do not have our own currence!! What a genius economy we have.

    Tanzania is just nothing, all these laws is to protect politicians from being question. Bt you can only control what is yours.
    Techonology and the brains behind it looks like its not native to any african country.

    If we have the brains, we can exploit it currently it doesnt looks so

    1. Cyclones and deluges are violent weather phenomena. Though they destroy life and property, they never last long. Why not bend towards the wind’s direction for awhile, like a clever tree, and stand upright after it has ceased!

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