On Monday, Tanzania‘s very backwards and super regressive social media and blogging licenseregulations went into effect, and it’s already claimed a lot of victims, most notably, popular East African whistleblower website, JamiiForums, which has now been shut down.
In April, the Tanzanian government signed a new regulation that will govern not just social media, but also blogging! The law mandates that bloggers, podcasters, online radio personalities, and even YouTube personalities will now be required to apply for blogging licenses (to blog) from the TCRA and pay annual fees, you know, like radio and TV.
The statement on the site, originally written in Swahili, translates to:
“Due to the notice issued by the Tanzania Telecommunication Authority (TCRA) today, June 10, 2018, which offers us a only a short time to stop service delivery immediately before June 11, 2018, we must comply with the mandate and therefore this service will not be temporarily unavailable while we make efforts to ensure that the service returns.
The TCRA notification content is available here: https://goo.gl/6tnBhR
We are sorry that this was sudden, but we hope that our customers will continue to be tolerant during this period.
Management – JamiiForums”
Online content publishers (blogs, podcasts, videos) now have to apply for a license at a fee of 100,000 Tanzanian Shillings, pay an initial license fee of one million Tanzanian Shillings and an annual license fee of one million Tanzanian Shillings. This means to run something as simple as a personal blog (text) if you live in Tanzania, you’d have to spend an initial (approximately) $900 (N324,000) in license fees.
And, everyone in Tanzania will be required to have a password (PIN) for locking their mobile phones, and failure to have this will result in a fine of more than 5 million Tanzanian Shillings (approximately $2,000, N720,000) or even 12 months imprisonment, or both depending on what the court decides.
Many bloggers, like Jamii Forums, have been forced to shut down, because the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has banned the publishing of content by peoples without the required licenses. The TCRA also ordered that bloggers obtain licenses by the 15th of June.
The owners of the Jamiiforums site were, reportedly, especially targeted and even charged with obstruction of justice for concealing the identities of users who post details of suspected corrupt officials.
Human rights activists unsuccessfully fought the new regulation, citing rightfully, that the move crushes the ambitions of most Tanzanian bloggers, who are without companies and the means to afford the hefty licenses in accordance with the new regulations.
Tanzania’s President Magufuli has been criticised a lot for spearheading measures to limit liberties such as the freedom of speech and expression. African governments wouldn’t recognise free speech even if it punched them repeatedly, and violently, in the face.