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Tanzania bloggers win temporary court order against $900 licence fees

Tanzania bloggers win temporary court order against $900 licence fees

Tanzania

<p><strong>Tanzanian bloggers and rights activists won a temporary court injunction on Friday against a government order to register their online platforms that raised concern about a crackdown on free speech.</strong></p> <p>Tanzania’s communications regulator had given bloggers, as well as owners of other online forums such as YouTube TV channels, until May 5 to heed tough new internet content rules through state registration and a licence fee of up to $900.</p> <p>Six human rights watchdogs, media organisations and bloggers filed a joint case in Tanzania’s high court asking the judiciary to block implementation of the regulations, arguing that they violate freedom of expression and privacy of internet users.</p> <p>In his ruling, Judge Fauz Twaib ordered the information ministry and the state communications regulator (<span class="caps">TCRA</span>) not to enforce the deadline pending another hearing to decide the case.</p> <p>The new rules also require bloggers to furnish details of shareholders, share capital, citizenship of owners, staff qualification and training programmes, as well as a tax clearance certificate, to obtain an operating licence.</p> <p>Bloggers convicted of defying the new rules could be fined at least 5 million shillings ($2,200) or imprisoned for a minimum 12 months, or both.</p> <p>Most bloggers in the East African country are individuals, without registered companies, making it difficult for them to meet the registration requirements.</p> <h3>Is Magufuli cracking down on free speech?</h3> <p>Digital activists said the move was the latest salvo in a swoop on dissent and free speech by President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015 on pledges to speed up economic growth and rein in corruption.</p> <p>On April 20, Magufuli ordered legal action against anyone deemed to be abusing freedom of expression by posting misleading anti-government statements on social media.</p> <p>Several Tanzanian bloggers had begun shutting down their websites to avoid punitive action ahead of the deadline.</p> <p>Elsie Eyakuze, a blogger and newspaper columnist, said the government was citing taxation as a pretext to muzzle dissent.</p> <p>“The Tanzanian blogosphere is too minute to generate anything worth taxing, but it has punched above its weight lately. So it is with a clean heart that I announce the icing of (my) Mikocheni Report,” she wrote in her blog on Thursday.</p> <p>The number of internet users in Tanzania rose 16 percent in 2017 to 23 million, around 44 percent of the population, with most using their smartphones to go online.</p> <p>Last month, Uganda, another East African country acting to regulate internet use, announced plans to slap a new tax on social media users.</p> <p><strong><em><span class="caps">REUTERS</span></em></strong></p>

The Tanzanian blogosphere is too minute to generate anything worth taxing, but it has punched above its weight lately. So it is with a clean heart that I announce the icing of (my) Mikocheni Report.

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