Kenya scribes body calls for scrapping of fines on TV stations

14Jan 2018
The Guardian Reporter
Guardian On Sunday
Kenya scribes body calls for scrapping of fines on TV stations

THE Committee to Protect Journalists in Kenya has asked Tanzanian authorities to annul fines levied against five television stations accused of broadcasting seditious and unbalanced content.

Earlier this month the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) fined five stations - Star TV, Azam Two, Channel 10, ITV and East Africa TV - a collective Sh60m ($27,000).

The commission's decision came after the stations covered a report by non-governmental human rights organisation alleging that abuses were committed by security personnel and other unidentified people during the country's November 26 ward by-election.

Media reports in Tanzania recorded a press conference by the Authority's contents committee, which regulates broadcast programming which claimed the media reported on alleged abuses including abductions and obstructing voters.

“The government is using the broadcasting regulator as proxy for censoring political reporting," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney in New York.

He said the situation was deeply disturbing for the future of independent reporting in the country.

He asked the authorities to scrap the fines and resist the temptation of using regulation to undermine rights guaranteed by law.

Contacted for comment, TCRA spokesperson Semu Mwakyanjala said the stations had the option to appeal the ruling to the Tanzania Fair Competition Tribunal, a body that hears cases on regulatory and competition issues.

Samwel Nyalla, the chief executive officer of Star TV's parent company, Sahara Media Group, told CPJ that the station was still reviewing options with its lawyers and had not yet made a decision to appeal.

CPJ could not reach the other four stations for comment via phone call, email, or text message despite repeated attempts.

During the January 2 press conference, the TCRA said the five stations' coverage of the human rights report violated the country's 2005 Broadcasting Services (Content) Regulations.

It alleged that the coverage of the report was inciting and threatened the peace and security of the nation, and that the stations did not properly verify its truthfulness, according to media reports and a recording of the January 2 press conference.

Tanzanian authorities also accused the five stations of airing content that lacked balance by failing to incorporate the opinions of the electoral commission and police in their news stories.

East Africa TV, ITV, and Channel 10 have each been fined Sh15m (6,750), Star TV and Azam 2 each face a fine of Sh7.5m ($3,375).