Internet regulations in Tanzania are getting tighter with each passing day. Recently, in May, the bloggers of Tanzania lost an appeal against the new set of rules which provided the country’s Communication Regulatory Authority supreme powers to censor the content online.
Not only this, recently the Tanzanian government asked all unregistered online forums and bloggers to suspend their websites immediately or be ready to face severe punishments including the criminal prosecution.
This led to the shutdown of various online platforms like Jamii forums after the TCRA (Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority) warned them of a legal action.
What is This Fuss All About?
Various regulations instated in March made it compulsory for the website owners and bloggers and YouTube channels to get themselves registered with the government by paying up to $900 for a license. It is important to mention here that the per capita income in Tanzania is hardly even $900 a year, and such a huge fee proved to be a big setback.
According to various digital activists, the newly introduced laws are a crackdown on the freedom of speech by the government led by President John Magufuli who came into power in 2015. On the other hand, government officials claimed that these rules are meant to crack down on hate speech and to tackle the cybersecurity threats including pornography and cyberbullying.
The regulation is not only imposed on the bloggers and owners of online forums, but also on the radio channels, online TV channels, podcasters and others. They are required to pay approximately two million Tanzanian shillings as a registry free or be ready to face legal repercussions.
Furthermore, additional regulations are already in the makings. For instance, the online content creators are asked to record details of all their contributors over the last 12 months; they are also required to include a sponsor list.
The electronic gadget users are asked to protect their devices, including phones and laptops, with a strong password. Failure to comply with this newly-issued set of rules would lead to a fine of five million Tanzanian shillings, which roughly translates to 2,202 US dollars, or even jail time or both!
These new rules have forced new bloggers and social media influences to go offline. This is quite obvious for a country like Tanzania where around 70% of the people live on less than $2/day and where the per capita income is about $900.
This development has disheartened the bloggers and vloggers who are of the view that with all these regulations in place, blogging is no more worth it. Furthermore, it is not just the money which is letting the people down, but also the unclear terms like ‘prohibited content’ and so on.
This recent development has created an environment filled with anger and confusion all around the country. People even view content publishing as a risk.
That said, it is important to mention here that JamiiForums seems to be affected the most. With 600,000 unique views per day, the site was often referred to as ‘the Swahili Wikileaks.’ The site has tried hard in fighting against the government, but the newly imposed regulations have only made the matter worse.
The site was forced to go offline last month due to the registering and licensing issue. Now, as the website has managed to get the registration, the authorities have asked it to stay down until it provides a hard copy certificate with the government approval.
However, the road ahead is still not going to be easy for the JamiiForums wherein it will have to monitor 80,000+ comments that it receives daily and delete inappropriate ones as per the guidelines issued by the government.
Not only this, the cofounders of JamiiForums, Mike Mushi and Maxence Melo, have been arrested in the past as they refused to share their users’ identity online.
But, It Not Just About Tanzania
While Tanzania is soaring high on the internet regulations, it is not the only country to do so. The government of Uganda recently imposed a social media tax as of July 1 and asked the users of Twitter, Facebook, Skype and other social media networks to pay 5 US cents or 200 Ugandan shillings per day via their mobile service providers’ money platforms.
China is another country known for its strict internet censorship. The state has so far created more than 60 internet regulations which are followed religiously by companies, organizations, and ISPs. An its influence seems to be spreading across Eastern Asia where Indonesia started censoring its internet space forcing its citizens to seek alternatives such as VPNs or private browsers like TOR.
Russia seems to follow the same route which recently banned the use of Telegram in the country.
Simply put, the internet censorship is quite severe and drastic in certain countries. The situation is getting worse year after year due to the lack of proper opposition.
Meanwhile, the governments are trying their best to manipulate the citizens by making them believe that the internet poses a huge threat to the nation.