October 22, 2020 Report

Tanzania: Report on the Arbitrary Suspension of Kwanza Online TV for Sharing Information Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic

"Covid-19 Testing"

Photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection via Adobe Creative Commons

"Covid-19 Testing" Photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection via Adobe Creative Commons

On July 3, 2020, Kwanza Online TV, an independent online newspaper based in Tanzania, was suspended for 11 months. It had shared a public announcement, via social media, by the US embassy regarding the ongoing risk posed by COVID-19 in the country. [1] The Tanzanian Regulatory Authority Content Committee found that the repost had undermined national unity and jeopardized the economy. Upon a review of the procedural history and reasoning provided by the TRCA, staff attorneys at the American Bar Association (ABA), Center for Human Rights (Center) have determined that the suspension was imposed without sufficient procedural due process and in apparent violation of Tanzania’s obligation to promote and protect the right to freedom of expression and access to information, as guaranteed in its Constitution and under applicable regional and international human rights law.  The suspension is particularly problematic because it directly undermines the right of the public to be informed of matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It fits a recent pattern of intimidation of independent media and critical voices in Tanzania that undermines Tanzania’s declared commitment to the rule of law and democratic principles and violates its domestic and international obligations to preserve the same.

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The staff and consultants of the American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights drafted this preliminary report.  The statements and analysis expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the ABA and therefore do not represent the position or policy of the ABA as a whole. Further, nothing in this report should be considered legal advice for specific cases.

[1] Committee to Protect Journalists, Tanzania bans Kwanza Online TV for 11 months citing “misleading “Instagram post COVID-19, July 9, 2020, available at https://cpj.org/2020/07/tanzania-bans-kwanza-online-tv-for-11-months-citing-misleading-instagram-post-on-covid-19/