Tanzania government shuts down Jamii Forums curtailing free speech



If you logged onto popular Tanzanian blogging site Jamii Forums today, this is the grim message that greets you on arrival. The site has been forced to hut down following new government regulations on online content. Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has banned the publishing of content by peoples without the required licenses. The rule took effect today.

TCRA has ordered that bloggers obtain licenses by the 15th of June. The new rules also require them, as well as online television and radio to have their platforms registered, to obtain a certificate of tax clearance, as well as pay license fees summiing up to $900 (KES 90,000). They are required to register as companies and make open the details of their shareholders, the owner(s) citizenship and share capital.

Human rights activists alongside digital activists attempted to fight the regulations’ implementation, a quest that failed miserably after they lost a court case challenging the TZ government, terming these actions as a, quote, “crackdown on free speech.” This move crushes the ambitions of most Tanzanian bloggers, who are wthout companies and the means to afford the hefty licenses in accordance with the new regulations.

Prosecutors charged Micke William and Maxence Melo Mubyazi, owners of the Jamiiforums site (a popular whistleblower website), under Tanzania’s Cybercrimes Act, which came into effect in 2015. The two were charged with obstruction of justice for concealing the identities of users who post details of suspected corrupt officials.

Tanzania’s President Magufuli has come under harsh criticism since he took office, for spearheading measures to limit liberties such as the freedom of speech and expression.