Call to lift ban on MAWIO newspaper

The weekly newspaper Mawio has been ordered to suspend publication for two years after pointing fingers at two former presidents in connection with huge revenue losses.

The weekly, regularly critical of the government, was suspended after it published front-page pictures of former presidents Jakaya Kikwete (2005-2015) and Benjamin Mkapa (1995-2005) on Thursday, linking them with dubious mining contracts.

Speaking to reporters yesterday in Dar es Salaam acting executive secretary of the MCT Pili Mtambalike said that basically the Media Service Act no 12 of 2016 does not give powers for the minister to ban the newspaper.

On 15 of June this year, the Minister for Information and Culture Harrison Mwakyembe announced the ban of a weekly Swahili newspaper MAWIO issue dated 15-21 June this year. The minister’s ban will last for 24 months. 

The tabloid  had published  in the front page the pictures of the retired Presidents Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete implicating them with the mineral sand saga.   

The minister statement explained that the stories published in the newspaper breached section 50 (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) that restricts reporting with negative perceptions, adding that the decision was taken under section 59 of the Media Services Act 2016.  

Mtambalike said that the government was supposed to withdraw the ban of MAWIO newspaper on the ground that the law had breached the fundamental  rights for democracy and painted a bad picture of the country.

“Because in the Media Service Act 2016 there is no place for appeal against the minister decision, and if there will be no room for consultation with the minister, we shall file the case to the court together with MAWIO to demand the rights,” she said.    

“It should be remembered that the media works according to the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania under section 18 that stipulates the rights of the citizen to search for, to receive and to disseminate information and opinions in any means.

According to the secretary the government leaders are supposed to accept challenges and criticisms on matters of significance when struggling to restructure the economy and the war against corruption.

For his part THRDC national coordinator Onesmo Olengurumwa challenged the decision taken by the minister that the section used to ban the newspaper did not relate with the proper section used.   

According to the section, the mandated organ to decide the fate of the media is the court after it had heard  from the concerned party. However, the minister didn’t follow the procedures.

Section 107 (A) (1) of the United Republic of Tanzania mandated the court as the organ to give justice in the country, hence the minister’s decision to punish the media is against the Constitution.  He added that the section used by the minister does not state the specific ‘mistake’ of MAWIO newspaper and according to the law there is no punishment without crime.

It should be reminded that the government restrict people from debating on matters of national interest  that was not included in the two presidential committee reports on mineral sand saga. 

For his part, the president of the Union of Tanzania Press Clubs (UTPC) Deogratius Nsokolo said they jointly condemn the government decision to ban the newspaper.

He challenged the power vested on the minister to ban the newspaper is a throne to media freedom in Tanzania.“Both old and new media laws restrict the freedom of the media in the country as the same decision used in the previous Newspaper Act is still implemented in the current Media Service Act 2016, calling for amendments,” said the president.