Tanzania has fined five television stations Tsh60 million ($27,000) for “offensive and unethical” broadcasting.
The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) said the broadcasters were penalised for airing ‘seditious content’.
“The television stations are supposed to pay the fines within 30 days from today [Tuesday]. If they are dissatisfied they should appeal to the Fair Competition Commission in 30 days,” TCRA content committee chairman Joseph Mapunda told journalists.
The five stations are Star TV which was fined Tsh7.5 million ($3,375), Azam Two (Tsh7.5 million, $3,375), East Africa TV (Tsh15 million, $6,750), Channel 10 (Tsh15 million, $6,750) and ITV (Tsh15 million, $6,750).
Mapunda said the stations aired a Legal Human Rights Centre (LHRC) evaluation of November 26, 2017 ward by-election which was offensive, unethical, unlawful.
He said by broadcasting the seditious news, peace was threatened and public safety jeopardised.
Mapunda said the civil society organisation LHRC evaluation claimed that during the by-election peace was breached, human rights violated, security organs abused their power, innocent citizens were abducted by unknown people, and that voters were threatened.
He said the evaluation also portended violence in the coming civic by-elections and that after going through all five television stations’ content that was aired on ward by-elections, the committee was convinced that they committed offences.
“The television stations were supposed to check with the National Electoral Commission instead of airing such information without confirming the other side,” he said.
Responding to the announcement of the fine, Tanzanians expressed their disappointment, describing it as early signs of intolerance and dictatorship.
What’s wrong with these African leaders ???
— ?FĒÀRLÈssJournålist (@MuformuFour) January 2, 2018
Dictator at his best
— Ndodo Hassan (@barack_hassan) January 3, 2018
…and here it goes again, itafika wakati watasema hakuna kuonesha wazungu kwenye TV. #freedomofpress
— Evance Muhenga (@evans_finance) January 2, 2018
LHRC has since appealed to to international human rights groups to intervene in what they describe as suppression of freedom of expression.
They have also indicated that they will seek a court interpretation of the term ‘seditious content’.