Blogging has been popular in Tanzania for more than a decade, enabling writers and independent journalists to express views and report news that
might not otherwise appear in mainstream media. But as of last month, this kind of work will come with a price tag.
On March 16, 2018, the United Republic of Tanzania issued the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations demanding that bloggers must register and pay over USD $900 per year to publish online.
Application 2. These Regulations shall apply to online content including: (a) application services licensees; (b) bloggers; (c) internet cafes; (d) online content hosts; (e) online forums; (f) online radio or television; (g) social media; (h)
subscribers and users of online content; and (i) any other related online content.
The new regulations have far-reaching implications for freedom of expression and human rights. Bloggers must fill out official regulatory forms and avoid publishing prohibited content including nudity, hate speech, explicit sex acts, extreme
violence, "content that causes annoyance" fake news, and "bad language" among other restrictions.
The new regulations grant unrestrained power to the Tanzanian Communications Regulatory Authority ( TCRA ) to prescribe and proscribe. Under Part II, Number 4, TCRA then has the authority:
(a) to keep register of bloggers, online forums, online radio and online television;
(b) to take action against non-compliance to these Regulations, including to order removal of prohibited content
iAfrikan News further explains :
Online content publishers (blogs, podcasts, videos) will apply for a license at a fee of 100,000 Tanzanian Shillings (44 USD) pay an initial license fee of 1,000,000 Tanzanian Shillings (440 USD) and an annual license fee of 1,000,000 Tanzanian
Shillings (440 USD). This means to run something as simple as a personal blog (text) if you live in Tanzania, you'd have to spend an initial (approximately) $900 (USD) in license fees.
[A quick look at average salary figures on Wikipedia suggests that the average annual salary in Tanzania ia about 900,000 Tanzanian Shillings, so the licence fees are simply impossible for the majority of Tanzanians].
According to Tanzania Bloggers Network Secretary-General Krantz Mwantepele, as quoted in The Citizen, many Tanzanian bloggers cannot afford these fees because the "license applications and annual subscriptions are way beyond earnings of many
What is clear is that breaches of the new law will be punishable with a fine of "not less than five million Tanzanian shillings" (around USD $2,500), or imprisonment for "not less than 12 months or both."
Blogging as alternative news in Tanzania
Blogging emerged in Tanzania around 2007 and became popular as an alternative news platform with educated, middle class people, as well as politicians and political parties.
In Tanzania, where media historically holds strong ties to government interests, blogging opened up possibilities for individuals to establish private news outlets that proved immensely powerful in terms of reach and readership.
Before the rise of mobile apps, access to a stable Internet connected and laptop were imperative for bloggers. This set a relatively high barrier to participation for people with limited income.
There is no shortage of hostility towards Facebook at the moment, as a result of recent revelations about their exploitation of user data and
dissemination of supposed 'fake news'.
And the Ugandan Government has taken this to a whole new level and come up with a novel approach to try and steer Ugandan social media users away from US social media like Facebook and WhatsApp; a social media tax.
The social media tax proposal has been widely mocked by Ugandan internet users and experts, but it seems that the idea, which is thought to have emanated from the long-standing Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni himself, is destined to be
His justification was that because social media apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp were developed overseas, Ugandan's are merely consumers of their services and profits from these apps are all being made overseas.
Information minister Frank Tumwebaze claimed that the Ugandan Government wanted to foster online innovation at home and claimed that by taxing these overseas services, Ugandan's would be encouraged to develop their own rival apps.
Exactly how the tax will work in practice is still unclear.
South Afric's Film and Publications Amendment Bill will apply traditional pre-vetting style censorship t everything posted on the internet in
The National Assembly has approved the bill in a vote of 189 in favour, with 35 against and no abstentions. The bill must now come before the National Council of Provinces for its approval before it can be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa to be
signed into law.
Opposition parties say the Film and Publications Amendment Bill amounts to censorship - and may be unconstitutional. The Inkatha Freedom Party's Liezl van der Merwe said:
This bill through the Films and Publications Board, seeks to take wholesale control of the internet. Among some of the provisions, this bill requires everyone who generates some type of revenue from distributing content online to register, pay a
fee and have their content approved and classified before they can post it.
The party's Mbuyiseni Ndlozi says the red berets are prepared to challenge it in the Constitutional Court if necessary.
Speaking to BusinessTech, legal expert and long time opponent of the bill, Nicholas Hall, explained some of the details of the censorship provisions. Hall said that the FPB now has the power to classify and potentially ban films, games and 'other
Other publications are defined as:
Any newspaper, book, periodical, pamphlet, poster or other printed matter;
Any writing or typescript which has in any manner been duplicated;
Any drawing, picture, illustration or painting;
Any print, photograph, engraving or lithograph;
Any record, magnetic tape, soundtrack or any other object in or on which sound has been recorded for reproduction;
Computer software which is not a film;
The cover or packaging of a film;
Any figure, carving, statue or model; and
Any message or communication, including a visual presentation, placed on any distributed network including, but not confined to, the internet.
Hall said that YouTubers and streamers are most likely to be affected by the new laws:
While the amendment bill will give the FPB the power to potentially classify any content uploaded online, including private communications, they generally will only have this power if someone complains to them about the specific content.
Films and games are treated differently, however. Under the bill, a distinction is made between 'commercial distributors' and 'non-commercial distributors'. Non-commercial distributors of films and games are treated much like the creators of
'other publications', their content can only be classified if someone complains.
However, commercial distributors are required to have their content classified prior to distribution or face criminal prosecution.
Hall added that this distinction was particularly problematic as it is unclear what is defined as a 'commercial purpose', and that this could be as simple as enabling advertising on uploaded videos.
All content platforms (Youtube, Netflix, Steam etc) will now also be required to register as distributors and pay an annual fee, based on the number titles they have in their library.
The other concern is that they have built in provisions to allow them to enforce this system, one of which is to force ISPs (eg Telkom, Mweb, and Afrihost) to block access to content platforms that do not comply.
Inxeba (The Wound) is a 2017 South Africa / Germany / Netherlands / France romance by John Trengove.
Starring Nakhane Touré, Bongile Mantsai and Niza Jay.
Xolani, a lonely factory worker, travels to the rural mountains with the men of his community to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When a defiant initiate from the city discovers his best-kept secret, Xolani's entire existence
begins to unravel.
Inxeba (The Wound) is a film centred around an African custom of adulthood initiation via a circumcision ritual. It contains two simulated sex scenes and has a gay storyline.
South African film censors at Film and Publication Board (FPB} originally awarded a straightforward 16 LS rating for language and sex.
The gay theme wound up local conservatives of the Gauteng branch of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (Contralesa) and cultural organisation the Man and Boy Foundation and an appeal against the rating was lodged.
The result of the appeal was that the rating was upgraded to an X18 rating which is generally reserved for explicit hardcore pornography. Similarly to the UK, the movie can then only be screened at licensed porn cinemas, and it is effectively
banned from mainstream cinemas.
Clearly the producers of Inxeba are not well pleased and along with leading South African film industry players say the fight over the movie being reclassified as pornographic by the FPB is far from over. They have vowed to take the matter
to court. They accuse the FPB of censorship, homophobia and of not following its own governing act or classification guidelines by overturning the controversial, award-winning gay Xhosa initiation movie's original 16 LS ratin.
Inxeba (The Wound) has been unbanned by a Pretoria High Court Order and will be back on mainstream cinema screens again from Friday, March 9.
This is the result of a High Court order granted on Tuesday, in the urgent application brought by Webber Wentzel on behalf of the film's producers and distributor to reverse the X18 rating and enables the film to return to the public domain and
be relieved of its imprisonment in sex shops, branded as pornography.
While this outcome has provided momentary relief to the film as it can be screened in mainstream cinema with the rating of 18, the lifting of the ban is, however, only temporary, pending the outcome of review proceedings before the court, which
will be heard on March 28.
Democrats is a 2014 Denmark / Zimbabwe documentary by Camilla Nielsson.
Starring Paul Mangwana, Robert Mugabe and Douglas Mwonzora.
Two political opponents are appointed to write Zimbabwe's new constitution. It is the ultimate test that can bring an end to President Mugabe's 30 years of autocratic rule. It can go either way: towards the birth of a constitutional democracy -
or renewed repression.
Zimbabwe's High Court has lifted a ban on an acclaimed documentary film that portrays former president Robert Mugabe in a far from flattering light.
The film, The Democrats, by Danish filmmaker Camilla Nielsson, was made in the aftermath of Zimbabwe's violent and disputed 2008 elections. It tells the story of Zimbabwe's fraught constitution-making process. But Zimbabwe's censorship
board never allowed the film to go on sale or to be screened in the country.
Rights lawyer Bellinda Chinowawa told RFI it took a year and a half to get this High Court ruling. She called it a great victory for all Zimbabweans.
To begin with the film's production company, Upfront Films, was given the green light to make the documentary about the constitutional-making process. But when it was finally released -- to international acclaim in 2015 -- Zimbabwe's censorship
board ruled that it wasn't suitable for local audiences.
The censors never revealed why they had banned the film, they are not forced to by law. It is believed though that supporters of Robert Mugabe -- who was then president -- felt it depicted him wrongly as a dictator.