By Azania Post Reporter
A hefty fine of shillings 5 million or 12 months in jail or both penalties awaits online content producers and users who will go against new proposed rules and regulations, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has said.
Already the government has drafted sweeping regulations to tighten its grip on online content producers and users across popular social media platforms.
TCRA will have unfettered powers to police the web. It will also licence all content providers, including bloggers.
According to the draft regulations, TCRA will deregister any provider and block users deemed to have broken the rules.
The Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, 2017 (as they are known) will come into force once signed by the Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports Dr. Harrison Mwakyembe.
TCRA director general James Kilaba said that the regulations have been circulated to organisations and members of the public to import their views.
“We will hold public forums in the coming week to share the draft document with stakeholders before the final set of rules are sent to the minister for signing and gazettement,” said Mr Kilaba by telephone.
The rules are a result of the Electronic and Postal Communications Act that was approved recently in Parliament as the government sought to clip growing public influence on online and social media platforms.
Authorities say unchecked use of the cyberspace will lead to moral decadence and endanger national security and cohesion among the various social and political groups in the country.
But the Electronic and Postal Communications Act and the Media Services Act have been heavily criticised by rights activists who feel the government was out to curtail the people’s right of free speech and expression. A number of people have since been charged in court for incitement over posts on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp and online.
In the proposed regulations, online content providers shall not publish material described either as indecent, obscene, hate speech, extreme violence or material that will offend others or incite them.
They will also be held liable for material that “causes annoyance, threatens harm or evil, encourages or incites crime, or leads to public disorder.”
Content providers will be required to ensure their broadcasts do not advocate what is broadly described as hate propaganda, threaten national security or spark a health crisis