Victory for press freedom in Tanzania, but DRC bans newspaper

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Samia Suluhu Hassan is sworn in as the new president of Tanzania.
Samia Suluhu Hassan is sworn in as the new president of Tanzania.
Reuters/Stringer/Gallo Images
  • A banned newspaper was finally allowed by the government to return five years later in Tanzania.
  • The CPJ has called on the DRC to stop the six months ban of a newspaper which had been critical of the state.
  • The CPJ wants the Nigerian government to abide by a court ruling instructing it to compensate a journalist wrongfully jailed for six months in 2019.

A newspaper banned in Tanzania five years ago, has been allowed to publish again, while in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), another newspaper has been suspended for the next six months.

Mawio, a leading Tanzanian newspaper, was shelved in 2017 after authorities accused it of "jeopardising national security" when it published a series of stories over two former heads of state - the late Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete - linking them to corruption in the country's mining sector.

Under the presidency of the late John Magufuli, the ban was meant to be for two years, but despite the courts finding the ban irrational, it took a further three years for the paper to be granted permission to return.

In an interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Simon Mkina, who was the publisher and chief editor of the newspaper at the time, said for them to return would require investment.

He said:

It will take some time for Mawio to go back into publishing, as it needs huge capital. We need to start afresh. We need a printing budget, which is more than R690 000 (100 million Tanzanian shillings or US$43 300) for a few months before the newspaper even stands on its own feet financially and generates revenue. We need equipment and to hire the team. So there is hard work to be done. We have already started doing some of this work; looking for a team and new offices.

Mawio was not the only newspaper banned under Magafuli - MwanaHALISI, Mseto, and Tanzania Daima had also been given permission to publish again.

Mkina sees the decision by the sixth and first female president of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan, to lift the ban as a way of moving the country away from "the dark ages for media freedom".

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Meanwhile in the DRC, its media regulator, the Superior Council for Freedom of Communication (CSLC), suspended Sel-Piment for six months in January over its republication of an article from a website run by government critics in exile.

In December, police arrested Augias Ray Malonga, acting director of the newspaper, for seven days without charge.

Now three months into the ban, Angela Quintal, CPJ's Africa programme coordinator, called on authorities to "immediately lift the suspension of Sel-Piment and refrain from arresting journalists for their work".

She added: "Journalists should be free to re-publish and report on issues of public interest without fearing that they may be detained or face sanction."

On Monday, a federal court acquitted Nigerian journalist Agba Jalingo of anti-state and defamation charges almost three years after charging him.

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Jalingo was initially detained for six months in August 2019.

CPJ said in a statement that the government should compensate him for what he went through during his incarceration.

"Nigerian authorities should compensate Jalingo for his mistreatment, in compliance with a 2021 regional court decision, and ensure that journalism is not criminalised and the media can report freely," CPJ said.

Jalingo was arrested on 22 August 2019, and charged for his writing and social media posts about Cross River state governor Benedict Ayade.

In July 2021, the ECOWAS Court of Justice, a West African regional court, ordered the Nigerian government to compensate Jalingo for his prolonged detention and mistreatment in custody.

 The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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