Tanzania's government has imposed a two-year ban on the Mawio weekly newspaper. The ban also extends to any online articles the newspaper publishes.
The 24-month ban, announced by Tanzania's Information, Sports and Culture Minister Harrison Mwakyembe, imposed on Mawio's print editions and any articles posted online comes after the newspaper published articles that mentioned two retired Tanzanian presidents, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete, in reports on a government investigation into allegations of misconduct in the mining sector, according to a statement released by the director of Information Services, Hassan Abbasi.
The accusation is that Mawio contravened a Tanzanian state directive and the country's Media Services Act by publishing pictures of the two former presidents on the front page of its 15-21 June 2017 edition and writing a story allegedly linking them to the mining investigations.
Tanzania's Article 59 of the Media Services Act allows the government to "prohibit or otherwise sanction the publication of any content that jeopardizes national security or public safety."
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has come out strongly against this ban.
"We are extremely concerned that Tanzania is using public order as an excuse to frustrate the flow of information and public debate," said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal.
This is not the first time that Tanzania has suppressed press and Internet freedoms as in late 2016 the country's government arrested Maxence Melo, co-founder of popular Tanzanian whistle-blowing online platform JamiiForums, for allegedly declining to reveal the identities of whistleblowers who allegedly posted on sensitive information on his social media platform.
"A two-year ban is tantamount to closing the publication. We urge the government to let Mawio resume operations and to stop stifling critical voices," added Quintal.
Tanzania's President, John Magufuli, is reported to have warned the media on 14 June 2017 not to link the two former presidents to the mining contract investigation.
Mawio's Managing Editor, Simon Mkina, has said that he has received anonymous telephonic threats since the President issued the directive.
Since Magufuli has come to office in 2015, not only have there been various actions taken against the media in the East Afrikan country but the government has also stopped live transmission of parliamentary debates.