East Africa: Media Owners Lock Horns with Governments

Information Minister George Mkuchika

The government in Tanzania has banned two newspapers for what officials called violating of journalism ethics. According to Tanzania Information, Culture and Sports Minister George Mkuchika, Kulikoni and Leo Tena, both owned by Media Solutions violated matters of National Security law by publishing a story on the army. Mr Mkuchika said that in November last year Kulikoni published a story with a headline: “Mdudu wa wizi wa mitihani sasa aingia jeshini”, meaning, exam cheating bug enters the army.

Tanzanian law prohibits anyone, who is not an army officer, to comment anything on the army. Leo Tena had its license scrapped after violating provisions in the Penal Code that prohibit the publication of obscene materials. Allegedly, Leo Tena carried pictures of nude women, lesbians, in some of its pages. Meanwhile, in Kenya, a row has emerged as the government moved to control the media with a newly gazetted law. The government has been accused of mischief in enacting the rules. With the new regulations ban cross media ownership and gives the state authority to raid media houses that is a threat to freedom of the press.

The new laws state in part that a licensee shall generally ensure that no broadcast by its station contains offensive language and should not glorify violence. TV movies will also now have vetting by Kenya Films Censorship Board for rating before airing. Local productions will also have to be given 40 percent allocation on all stations. Leasing of frequencies is also set to be abolished with license holders having to surrender them to Communication Commission of Kenya for issuance to new players. Any person who contravenes the regulations shall be liable to a fine not exceeding a million shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both.

In March 2006, hooded police officers raided a leading media house in Kenya, disabled the printing press and torched thousands of papers. The government had previously imprisoned three of its journalists over a recent article on political intrigue involving the incumbent President. Thousands of Kenyans rallied outside the Standard’s headquarters, condemning the government’s move and calling on the president to resign. This latest development is expected to pit the government and broadcasters in raging battles with the Media Owners Association expressing its disapproval of the over contentious clauses.

© 2010, Suleiman Mbatiah. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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