Four years ago, on 5th November 2016, the Media Services Act No. 12 of 2016 was enacted by the Parliament of United Republic of Tanzania and was later officially assented into law by the President of United Republic of Tanzania Dr. John Pombe Magufuli on 16th November 2016.
On 11th of January 2017 Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), Legal and Human Right Centre (LHRC), and Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) filed a petition at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to challenge the Media Service Act, 2016. The team of lawyers from MCT, LHRC and THRDC were challenging some provisions of the law on the ground that they are in violation of Articles 6(d), 7(2) and 8(1) (c) of the Treaty for Establishment of the East African Community. Under the Treaty, Tanzania has an obligation to uphold the fundamental principles of the Community as enshrined in Article 6(d) which include,
“Good governance including the adherence to democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency as well as the recognition, promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
East African Court of Justice Decision
On 28th March 2019 the court delivered the judgement and ruled that some of the provisions of sections 7(3) (a), (b), (c), (f), (g), (h), (i) and (j) and section 19, 20, 21, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 50, 52, 53, 54, 58 and 59 of the Media Services Act are in violation of the Articles 6(d), 7(2) and 8(1) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community.
Aggrieved by the decision of the court on 11th April 2019, the government of Tanzania filed the notice of appeal before the appellate division of the court. According to the rules of the court the government of Tanzania was supposed to file an appeal within 30 days from the date on notice but to date the have never filed an appeal.
On 6th December 2019, the Applicants filed an application No. 5 of 2019 to strike out notice of appeal on ground that the Respondent has failed to take essential and necessary steps, including failing to file an appeal. This application is fixed for hearing on 21st May 2020 at 9:30 am before Honorable Justices: Dr. Emmanuel Ugirashebuja - President, Liboire Nkurunzinza - Vice President, Aaron Ringera, Geoffrey Kiryabwire and Sauda Mjasiri. Ruling on this application will be delivered on 9th June 2020.
It is worth noting that, due to the operational limitations posed by the current COVID-19 pandemic in Tanzania and throughout the world the application will be heard through video conferencing.
The Negative Impacts of the Media Services Act (2016) so far
Since its coming to force in 2016, the Media Services Act (2016) has already been used to ban and suspend 5 newspapers to date including Mawio (for 2 years), Tanzania Daima (for 3 months), Raia Mwema (for 3 months), MwanaHalisi (for 2 years) and The Citizen (for 7 days).
Jointly issued on 19th May 2020, by:
Media Council of Tanzania (MCT),
Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), and
Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC)
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