The government of Tanzania is defying International, regional and national regulation with legislation including the Electronic and Postal Communications Regulations 2018, according to digital rights advocacy group Paradigm Initiative.
The organisation issued a statement which decried the recent decision by Tanzanian authorities (via The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA)) to order the immediate suspension of unregistered blogging sites, among other online fora.
According to Paradigm Initiative, TCRA has justified the move sayging it was to address online abuse and cyber crimes including hate speech, pornography and online bullying.
Paradigm Initiative said violators of the regulation would be liable for a fine of at least five million Tanzania Shillings (US$2200) and/or serve a 12-month jail term.
The organisation believes this is an attempt by authorities to enforce the March Electronic and Postal Communications Regulations 2018 that requires bloggers and any other internet-based service to reveal the names of their shareholders, their details, their approximate cost of investment, tax clearance certifications – as well as pay just over US$900 in fees that includes an initial application fee, a licence fee and a renewable licence fee after 3 years.
Paradigm Initiative believes the fees will "only seek to ensure that bloggers from the lower end of the economic spectrum are off the net, taking away their source of livelihood and freedom of speech."
In early June Jamiiforums cited new online content regulations by TCRA as the reason for its temporary shutdown.
A statement on the website reads: "We must comply with the mandate and therefore this service will not be unavailable temporarily as we make efforts to ensure that it returns. For our clients in other countries, this service will come back sooner but the Tanzanian return to service will depend on the outcome of the efforts of our representatives in Tanzania. We are sorry we have to reach this point suddenly but we hope that our customers will continue to be tolerant during this period."
The internet advocacy group made reference to the ongoing scenario in its statement:
"A popular site Jamiiforums that is known to be used to expose unethical information on matters concerning the country continues to fight it out in court on grounds on infringement of the right to privacy of the freedom of expression. The appellate court is to rule on the freedom of expression in Tanzania but the most recent ruling was in the government's favor," reads a statement by Paradigm Initiative
"It is evident that they have forgotten that 'the same rights people have offline must also be protected online' ,as provided in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights-In this case the universal freedom of expression," the organisation continued.