Tanzanian newspaper suspended for 'insulting president'

 John Magufuli (Khalfan Said, AP, File)
John Magufuli (Khalfan Said, AP, File)

Nairobi - An independent Tanzanian newspaper has been suspended for two years, a government spokesperson said on Tuesday, accusing the publication of sedition and endangering national security.

The critical Mwanahalisi newspaper was shut after publishing a letter on Monday from a reader containing "insults" against President John Magufuli and his government, said spokesperson Hassan Abbasi.

Abbasi said the paper had received several warnings. The daily has been shuttered on several occasions in the past, for three months in 2008 and then three years between 2012 and 2015.

The offending letter said that Magufuli "claims to be a patriot but questions the patriotism of anyone who opposes him. This is hypocritical."

Mocking Magufuli's regular calls for people to pray for him, the article asks if in fact one should not rather pray for opposition lawmaker Tundu Lissu who was shot and injured earlier this month.

His party CHADEMA has accused the government of being involved in the attack.

Abbasi said the letter was the latest in a long line of violations of "ethics, principles of the journalistic profession by the publication of false, seditious articles that endanger national security".

"Government is suspending printing and publication of the Mwanahalisi newspaper for 24 months," said Abbasi.

The ban comes just three months after the weekly Mawio was suspended for two years for linking two former presidents to dubious mining contracts.

Since his October election Magufuli has shut down newspapers, banned opposition rallies, switched off live broadcasts of parliamentary sessions and used a draconian "cyber crimes" law to jail critics.

His government is also increasingly targeting the gay community.

"This suspension is absolutely excessive and is yet another example of the repression that is being experienced by Tanzanian media," said Clea Kahn-Sriber of Reporters Without Borders.

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