Press release

Two Tanzanian newspapers in trouble – one closed, another suspended

January 12, 2010

EAJA Media Freedom Monitoring Alerts & Up-dates

Tanzania government has de-registered Leo Tena newspaper and suspended the publication of Kulikoni for 90 days effective from Monday, 11 January 2010.

The draconian measure was announced by the Minister of Information, Sports and Culture, Captain George Mkuchika, in the capital Dar es Salaam on 9 January 2010.

According to the Minister, the newspapers were punished for violating journalism ethics. He also said Kulikoni violated National Security law by publishing a story on the army.

Leo Tena is accused of violating the Country’s Penal Code through its publication of obscene materials. The newspaper allegedly published pornographic materials of nude lesbian women having sex.

According to the Minister, November last year Kulikoni published a story with headline “Mdudu wa Wizi wa Mitihani Sasa Aingia Jeshini” (Exam cheating germ enters the army). He said the article embarrassed the military and that is why the army complained and, when the registrar asked the editor to substantiate the claims, he gave unsatisfactory explanation.

“The law prohibits anyone who is not an army officer to comment on anything touching on the army,” the registrar had said.

The suspension of Kulikoni newspaper comes about one month after its Publisher, Media Solution, decided to make the paper and its sister English version, This Day, be published weekly instead of daily.

Kulikoni is one of few newspapers which have persistently exposed and commented on graft in Tanzanian society without fear.

Quoted by Tanzania Daima newspaper of 9 January 2010, Reginald Mengi, the IPP media conglomerate chairman and publisher of Kulikoni said: “I am shocked. I have never seen any government fighting with the media, especially during elections year. It is a very sad move. This is to encourage misunderstanding and allow graft to continue. It is very sad”.

Tanzania is expected to hold its fourth multiparty general election October this year.

The closing and suspension of newspapers is becoming common in Tanzania. On 26 July 2001 the government banned nine Kiswahili local weekly magazines and suspended three tabloids for allegedly publishing indecent photographs that corrupt the society and thwart campaigns to combat HIV-AIDS in the country.

The Kiswahili tabloids, which were suspended for six months were Cheko and Zungu while Kombora would serve a 12-month ban.

The Kiswahili magazines closed by the government were Mama Huruma, Tafrani, Chachandu, Mizengwe, Maraha, Kula Vitu, Penzi Kikohozi, Uroda kwa Foleni, and Simulizi Kutoka Chumbani.

On 13 October 2008 the government suspended Mwanahalisi newspaper for 90 days for allegedly going against professional ethics and publication of news that have ill-intention of inciting public hatred against President Jakaya Kikwete and, contribute to the misunderstanding within President’s family. The ban was lifted after the expiry of the stated term<>.