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.