Media content: TCRA chastises broadcasters

15Aug 2020
By Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Media content: TCRA chastises broadcasters

​​​​​​​THE Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has banned a popular radio programme, slapped three online broadcasters with a total of 15m/- fines and warned four others over unethical content.

TCRA’s content regulation committee chairman Joseph Mapunda.

The regulator announced in Dar es Salaam yesterday that after deliberations, its content regulation committee had decided that Clouds FM’s Jahazi programme be banned as it allegedly aired “unethical content that encouraged young people to perform masturbation.”

“The programme was aired last month and it was not the first. The show had earlier encouraged people to consume octopus soup to enhance their libido,” said TCRA’s content regulation committee chairman Joseph Mapunda.

He stressed that the station is barred from introducing a programme with similar content but should come up with a completely different show. Jahazi is usually aired from 4pm to 7pm.

On other hand, the regulator ordered Wasafi Media Online TV, Triple A FM and Carry Mastory Media Limited to pay 5m/- fine for each for breaching the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, 2020.

Wasafi Media Online TV has been penalised for broadcasting vulgar content showing men and women dancing in a sexually provocative manner, the regulator intoned.

“The programme aroused sexual feelings and encouraged audiences to engage in such acts,” he said.

Triple A was fined for airing an advert for a witch doctor which TCRA says encouraged people to engage in superstitious beliefs. Carry Mastory Media will have to part with 5m/- for airing content that discussed unnatural sex.

Radio One, Radio Free Africa, Kiss FM, CG FM and Abood FM which are partner stations of the BBC were issued a warning for recently airing the British broadcaster’s interview with opposition Chadema’s presidential contender Tundu Lissu.

TCRA announced mid-week that Tanzanian radio and television stations must acquire a new licence to able to broadcast live content of a foreign media and that foreign journalists visiting broadcast stations in the country for journalistic work or related business must be accompanied by a government official.

In its notice to the public published in newspapers at mid-week, the regulator said the decision was informed by challenges that emerged from implementation of regulation 37 of the Electronic and Postal Communications (Radio and Television Broadcasting Content) of 2018.

“There has been a challenge with regard to programmes or live broadcasts especially when Tanzanian channels licenced by TCRA air foreign content that violate ethics and professionalism,” the notice intoned.

“To improve regulation of live programmes, regulation 37 was reviewed this year to include a subsection requiring all stations that intend to partner with local or foreign media including airing live broadcasts to apply for licence from TCRA.”

On the other hand, the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, 2020 notice has not been received well by media stakeholders, with the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) saying the regulations impact negatively on editorial independence, media freedom, journalism practice and freedom of expression in general.

In its analysis of the regulations released mid-week, MCT cited mandatory requirement of the licence for provision of online content service as provided under Regulation 4 as a constraint to freedom of expression.

Content has been defined under Regulation 2 to mean information in form of speech or other sound, data, text or images whether still or moving except where transmitted in private communications.

“This is strange taking into account that article 18 of the Constitution grants individuals with the right to seek, receive and impart information regardless of national frontiers,” the council asserted.

“Internet is one such medium which can be used to seek, receive and impart information in making use of that right. For that reason, imposition of the licence requirement is an unreasonable restriction of the right to freedom of expression.”

MCT also took issue with Regulation 16 which it says gives open-ended and broad list of prohibited content. It says the prohibited content is provided is expressed in overly broad terms prone to multiple interpretations and manipulation, hence it may be used to restrict or censor targeted information.

“For example, publication of indecent material is prohibited, but the term indecent material has been defined to mean material which is offensive, morally improper and against current standards of accepted behaviour which includes nudity and sex. It is unclear what constitutes “morally improper and against current standards of accepted behavior,” which creates the risk of blanket prosecution of content providers,” the council declared.

MCT also raised concern on regulations that allow TCRA to remove online content and restriction on the use of anonymity.

The changes on foreign content regulations will affect partner broadcasters of several international media outlets, including DW which reacted by warning against "a worrying trend towards restrictions on press freedom."

"This is a clumsy attempt to suppress critical voices before the election in Tanzania," said DW director Peter Limbourg in a statement posted on the radio’s website, warning that it was hard to counter "this far-reaching form of state censorship."

"We support our partner broadcasters in Tanzania and together we will find ways to keep the population well informed, for example through the increased use of social media," the director added.

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