Tanzania: Bloggers win temporary court order against $900 licence fee

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Tanzanian bloggers and online content creators won a temporary court order against government legislation forcing them to pay $900 per year in licencing fees.

The country’s communications regulators gave bloggers, YouTube channel hosts and other content creators until May 5 to comply with new online publishing rules involving government registration and annual licensing fees. However, Tanzania’s high court temporarily blocked the regulations on Friday, pending another hearing.

Internet clampdown on hold

Six human rights groups, media organisations and bloggers filed a joint case The High Court of Tanzania against the new regulations, insisting they violate freedom of expression and the privacy of internet users.

Judge Fauz Twaib ordered the state communications regulator (TCRA) not to implement the new regulations until another hearing can be held to reach a final decision from the court.

The average wage in Tanzania equates to roughly $900 per year, meaning the annual licence fee demanded by Tanzania’s communication regulators would make blogging impossible for most individuals.

Silencing individuals

The regulations also require bloggers to hand over details of shareholders, share capital, citizenship of owners, staff qualification and training programmes, as well as a tax clearance certificate, in order to obtain an operating licence.

Online content creators convicted of defying the regulations could be fined over $2,000, imprisoned for a minimum of 12 months – or both.

Activists say the regulations are the latest move against internet freedoms and individuals criticising the government. In April, President John Magufuli ordered legal action against anyone deemed to be abusing freedom of expression to post “misleading” anti-government messages online.

Several Tanzanian bloggers have already shut down their sites to avoid facing legal action.

Featured image: Public domain

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.