Ban on publication of newspaper annulled in light of restriction on ’Freedom of Press’

East African Court of Justice: The 5-Judge bench comprising of Monica K. Mugneyi, PJ, Isaac Lenaola DPJ, Faustin Nitezilyayo, Fakihi Jundu and Audrace Ngiye, JJ. addressed an order issued by the Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports of the United Republic of Tanzania restricting the ‘Freedom of Press’ along with ‘Right to freedom of expression’ by imposing a ‘Ban on the publication of newspaper’.

In the present case, a local Tanzanian newspaper, Mseto published an article with the item headed “Waziri amchafua JPM” (‘Minister soils of JPM’) which talked about an Assistant Minister in President John Pombe Magufuli’s government taking bribes from certain persons and entities in a bid to raise funds for president’s election campaigns.  For the said reason, a Government notice was issued against the applicants for ceasing the publication of the Mseto newspaper for a period of thirty-six months.

The applicants on their response stated that the news item was published to safeguard the image of the President of the United Republic of Tanzania and that of his office, and in light of the same no ‘illegality’ seems to have occurred. The applicant’s submissions flowed in by challenging the said order of ‘Ban on the publication of the newspaper’ by stating that it was an infringement upon the right to freedom of expression violating the principles under Articles 6(d), 7(2) and 8(1)(c) of the Treaty. An additional submission placed was of the unjustifiable restriction of the rights and freedoms contrary to Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 9 of the African Charter.

Court on analysing the submissions of the parties and noting the duly stated facts observed that the order of the Minister is to be annulled by resuming the publication of ‘Mseto’ as the order issued by the minister violated the right to freedom of expression along with Respondent’s violation of the obligation under the treaty to promote, recognize and protect human and people’s rights and to abide by the universally accepted human rights standards under Article 6(d) and 7(2) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. [Managing Editor, Mseto v. Attorney General of United Republic of Tanzania, Reference No. 7 of 2016, decided on 21-06-2018]

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