SEVEN months after Tanzania President John Magufuli signed the Media Services Bill 2016 into an Act, a Swahili tabloid, Mawio, becomes the first newspaper to face the wrath of the law.
The move comes a day after the government warned media houses, especially newspapers against dragging the names of former presidents into the mineral concentrates saga.
And, that is exactly what the newspaper did, defying the order by publishing an article linking former presidents Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete to the mineral sand saga, thereby facing a two year ban.
Yesterday, the Minister for Information, Culture Arts and Sports, Dr Harison Mwakyembe, slapped the newspaper with a ban by using his discretionary powers under section 59 of the Media Services Act, 2016.
The Minister said in a statement signed by the Director of Information Services (MAELEZO), Dr Hassan Abbasi, that in its publication number 196 of June 15-21, the newspaper published on its front page, the photographs of the two former Heads of State, connecting them with the mineral concentrates issue.
The newspaper went ahead to publish on its page 12, an article authored by Singida East legislator and the President of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) titled Mkapa, Kikwete wanaponaje? (literally meaning How can Mkapa, Kikwete survive?).
On Wednesday, Dr Magufuli and Dr Mwakyembe separately warned the media to refrain from engaging the two leaders in the mineral exports debate while they had not been mentioned in the second presidential committee report that was released on Monday.
Dr Mwakyembe advised the media houses and subscribers of social media platforms to stop dragging Mr Mkapa and Mr Kikwete into the ongoing debate on mineral concentrates, insisting that the move is likely to jeopardize the ongoing investigations by State security apparatus.
Some media outlets and the social media have since drawn the former Heads of State into the mineral concentrates debate since the Osoroled eight member committee released its report on Monday.
“It should remain on record that the probe committee did not implicate the former presidents in the mineral saga and the Fifth Phase government under Dr Magufuli recognises and respects the contributions made by the two leaders in the exemplary leadership of our country,’’ said Dr Mwakyembe in a statement.
Yesterday, Dr Mwakyembe said in a letter sent to the newspaper’s chief editor that despite their defence, the newspaper not only defied the government’s directive but it blatantly disregarded section 50 of the Media Services Act which prohibits distributing any seditious publication.
“It is now my obligation to order your newspaper to stop any publication both in hard copies and online for a period not less than 24 months since the date of this letter under the powers bestowed on me through section 59 of the Media Services Act, 2016,’’ read part of the letter from the Minister to the Mawio newspaper’s editor.