Journalists face heavy jail terms for ‘wrong’ information


CYBER, STATISTICS BILLS INFRINGING ON PRESS FREEDOM & HUMAN RIGHTS: THRD National Coordinator Onesmo Olenguruma addressing the media in Dar es Salaam


Dar es Salaam-The media fraternity in Tanzania might face tough times in future if President Jakaya Kikwete assents to a controversial bill stipulating a two-year sentence for publishing ‘wrong’ information.

The development has sparked off a protest by Tanzania Human Rights Defenders (THRD), who have rejected the two bills passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday, setting yet another clash between the government and human rights activists.

The two bills, the Cyber Crimes,  and Statistics 2013, were passed by Parliament after intense lobbying by the Attorney General George Masaju but according to the THRD, they stifle press freedoms and deny rights for private institutions to conduct research.

THRD National Coordinator Onesmo Olenguruma, told a press conference in Dar es Salaam on Thursday that the two bills are unconstitutional and need to be amended quickly.

“The legislations contradict with the Constitution and President Jakaya Kikwete should not sign the bill into law,” he said.
If signed the Statistics bill 2013 will give extreme power the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to take charge of all the new statistics and it criminalises institutions announcing new statistical findings without prior consultation with the bureau.

As a result, heavy penalties are to be slapped on media houses, civil society organisations, private research institutions and tertiary institutions which breach the conditions.

Part (V) Section 37 (4), says any media/journalist who commits an offence shall be liable to a fine of not less than Tsh10million, imprisonment for a term of not less than 24 months or both.

Weighing on the new Cyber Crime bill, Maxence Melo, the Director for Jamii Forum said it had been designed strategically to ban all forms of social media that include Facebook, Jamii Forum, Twitter, Whatsapp and blogs.
George Masaju had earlier told Parliament the Bill will prohibit publication of incorrect statistics by media houses and other institutions for public consumption.