Tanzania: Restrictive regulations on online content signed into law

ARTICLE 19 condemns the decision by the Tanzania government to sign into law the Electronic and Postal Communications (online content) Regulations 2018, which will come into effect in April 2018. The Regulations provide broad powers to the Tanzania Communications and Regulations Authority (TCRA) to restrict and remove content, and will have a detrimental effect on the right to freedom of expression online in Tanzania.

The regulations introduce mandatory registration and licensing of bloggers or any other member of the general public engaged in journalistic activities. They also impose a licensing and registration fee to paid annually to the TCRA.  The registration and licensing is inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression as set out in the Tanzania constitution, and in the country’s international obligations.

The regulations give the TCRA unfettered power to order removal of ‘prohibited content’ online without any oversight from an independent and impartial judicial body. The TCRA is not independent and giving the body the power to determine illegal content and order its removal lacks due process guarantees.

This regulation seeks to further constrain an already dwindling space for freedom of expression in Tanzania. In the last few months, the government has jailed opposition leaders on allegations of criminal defamation, banned newspaper publications on allegations of sedition all outright efforts to  silence criticism from its citizens.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Tanzania government to create an enabling environment for its bloggers and other internet users by making amendments to the regulations to protect the right to freedom of expression among its citizens.