The government of Tanzanian has banned a weekly tabloid from publishing for two years after the newspaper linked former presidents Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete to the mineral concentrates dispute.
The Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and sports Dr Harrison Mwakyembe imposed the ban on Mawio, the Kiswahili newspaper, through a statement by the Director of Information services, Dr Hassan Abbasi on Thursday evening.
Dr Abbasi said the ban takes effect immediately. Mawio’s Wednesday edition carried the photographs of the former presidents on its front page with a story detailing the two leaders’ role in the problems afflicting the mining sector in Tanzania.
“I have been left with no other option than to use powers conferred to me by the information services Act to impose a ban on Mawio from publication for the next 24 months,” read part of the letter from the minister to Mawio editor.
Apart from printing, the newspaper will also not be allowed to run the digital version or on its social platforms. Mawio was accused of ignoring a government directive on reporting of the former presidents.
On Wednesday, President John Magufuli warned the media against linking Mkapa and Kikwete with reports of the dispute with mining giant Acacia, after holding talks with Barrick Gold Chairman Prof John Thornton at the State House on Wednesday.
“Media should stop tarnishing their reputation. They have done a great work in serving this country. We should let them rest,” the President said.
This is the second time for the newspaper to be shut under President Maghufuli. In January 2016, Mawio was permanently banned from publishing in print and online and two of its editors briefly detained for allegedly inciting violence. The government uses the draconian 1976 Media Act, Government Announcement 55.
The government cited a report in which he said the paper declared the opposition candidate the winner in presidential elections in Zanzibar, and a headline that loosely translated as “Unrest coming to Zanzibar.”
The Tanzanian government is notorious for banning newspapers that are critical to its governance. Mwananchi and Mtanzania titles were suspended on Friday 27 September 2013 for taking a critical stance towards government policy.
The then director of information services said the newspapers were suspended “due to their trend of publishing news stories and articles that provoke incitement and hostility, with the intention of influencing the citizens to lose confidence in State organs, and thus endanger the peace and cohesion that prevails in the country.”
It also banned Kenya’s The East African weekly newspaper from circulating in the country, angered by a cartoon questioning then president Jakaya Kikwete’s governance and anti-corruption stance.