Government Minister banned
after banning newspaper
In a dramatic turn of events, the minister of information who banned a popular tabloid - MwanaHALISI - in Tanzania has been banned from appearing in the press for the same period of the sentence as metted on the tabloid.
The Tanzania Editors Forum, now at its formative stage, has decided that no information, on whaterver Minister George Mkuchika does, should appear in the press for three months effective yesterday.
Mr. Mkuchika banned MwanaHALISI last Monday for allegedly publishing "seditious" material.
In its strongly worded statement, the Forum blamed the government for the ban but indicated that it was probably the minister who was squinted in matters related to media and freedom of expression.
The editors resolved to go to court to seek an estopel on the execution of the ban by the minister; organise a demo by media workers to protest the ban; plead with president Jakaya Kikwete to remove Mkuchika from his current portifolio as he has "proved a failure," and circulate information to all development partiners on the government behaviour which does not augur well with democratic governance and freedom of expression.
The minister, according to a draconian law in place (Newspaper Act of 1976), may ban a newspaper anytime and without giving reasons for the action. However, in the case of MwanaHALISI, the minister has enlisted ashamedly feeble arguments which he alleges constitute sedition (See charges hereunder and replies provided by publishers of the tabloid).
The Tanzania government has banned MwanaHALISI, a popular weekly tabloid for three months effective Monday 13th October 2008.
The ban, announced by the Minister for Information Culture and Sports, George Mkuchika was announced at a press conference in Dar es Salaam .
The minister accused the tabloid of consistent publication of “seditious” material. Sedition, a political crime, is entrenched in the Tanzania draconian Newspapers Act of 1976.
Government action stems from a front page story of MwanaHALISI of 8th October instant, which detailed underground moves to block President Jakaya Kikwete from running for the second term in office.
According to the tabloid, there are moves within the ruling party – Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), to “oust” Mr. Kikwete and have a different person run for presidency come general elections in 2010.
The story gives names of individual persons, including deputy ministers for home affairs and defence as belonging to the clique bent on making it hard for Mr. Kikwete to attempt the second term. On the list is the son of the president, Mr. Ridhiwani Kikwete who the tabloid says “may not know what is going on.”
Ridhiwani is said to be campaigning for a prospective chairperson of the ruling party’s youth wing in the current run-up to elections; a man the papers says, is among those who want Kikwete to be a “one-term president.”
Police in Dar es Salaam yesterday (12th October) held and interrogated the publisher of MwanaHALISI, Saed Kubenea for four hours from 17hrs and finally told him they will be charging him with sedition.
Accompanied by his lawyer, Mabere Marando, Kubenea told the police that there was nothing seditious in the story, the statement his lawyer repeatedly emphasized but police would not yield.
The editor of the tabloid, Mr. Jabir Idrissa was equally subjected to interrogation by the police and jointly charged with sedition. It is not clear as to when the two will appear in court to answer the charges.
MwanaHALISI has, for a year now, been subjected to threats by the department of information of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Sports (MAELEZO).
Besides, big businesses have also threatened to sue the publisher while others have already instituted cases at the high court in Dar es Salaam.
The weekly tabloid, established in May 2006, has all along championed investigative journalism of its kind to a point that the publisher and the paper’s editorial advisor and media consultant Ndimara Tegambwage, were attacked (on 5th January 2008) by thugs wielding machetes and acid. The thugs were suspected to be working for some political interests. The case is still drugging in court.
As at 17 hrs Wednesday (East African Time) over 3,000 calls had been received from readers all over the country condemning government action and pledging support.
The publisher told the press in Dar es Salaam later that evening that he was contemplating going to court to seek to halt execution of the ban.
10th October 2008
GOVERNMENT INTENTION TO BAN MwanaHALISI
It is now clear that the government is intending to ban our newspaper, MwanaHALISI. It is accusing it of sedition – a political crime.
On 8th October 2008, the Ministry of Information Culture and Sports, responding to our story on an underground movement to make President Jakaya Kikwete a one-term president, issued a statement condemning the paper and alleging it had committed sedition. It demanded an explanation, in three days, as to why measures should not be taken against the tabloid.
On the same day, the information services department of the ministry (MAELEZO), charged the paper had committed sedition and demanded an explanation on the following day.
As if that was not enough, the Director of Communications at the state House, Salva Rweyemamu, last night castigated the paper, falling short of calling it a rumour machine.
This sort of orchestration is definitely meant to put an end to the life of the people’s paper, which has occasionally been attacked by government and some big businesses.
At MwanaHALISI we remain confident of what we are doing; stand by our story; look forward to seeing characters mentioned for their roles come up in court; and at the same time earnestly plead with the government to observe the highest degree of tolerance.
Attached herewith find our response to the ministry, MAELEZO and Attorney General.
Kasaba Street, Plot 57/31A Kinondoni
P. O. Box 67311, Dar es Salaam, Tel.: +255 784 440 073, 0784 447077
Fax: +255 22 276 0560, website:www.halihalisi.com.tz/mwana
Dar es Salaam.
Tafadhali rejea barua yako yenye Kumb. Na ISC/N.100/1/VOL.V/11 inayomtaka mhariri wa gazeti hili kutoa utetezi kwa nini MwanaHALISI lisichukuliwe hatua kwa kuandika habari ambazo umeita za “uchochezi.”
Rejea pia barua yako ya leo Kumb. Na ISC/N.100/1/VOL.V/12 ikijibu barua yetu ya leo (Kumb. Na. Kumb. M/HHPL/MC/001/15) ambamo unakataa katakata kuongeza muda wa kuleta utetezi na kutishia kuchukua hatua iwapo hatukujibu leo.
Kwa kuzingatia shinikizo uliloweka na kwa kuwa wachapishaji wa MwanaHALISI wasingependa kuwa katika malumbano na ofisi yako, tunaleta hapa, maelezo ambayo tuna uhakika yatakidhi matakwa yako, ingawa labda yangekuwa ya kina zaidi kama yangetolewa na mhariri mkuu ambaye anatarajiwa kurejea jijini baadaye wiki hii.
Kwa ujumla, gazeti halijaandika lolote linaloweza kuitwa uchochezi.
1. Tuhuma: Kugombanisha Rais Kikwete na mwanae Ridhiwani na kuleta mtafaruku katika familia ya rais:
Jibu: Kipengele kinachohusu Ridhiwani hakina chembe hata moja ya uchochezi. Badala yake kina taarifa inayoweza kuthibitishwa kwa vitendo na kauli za wengi. Hapa hakuna uchochezi.
2. Tuhuma: Uhasama kati ya Rais Kikwete (Mwenyekiti wa CCM na Viongozi Waandamizi (Bwana Rostam Azizi na Edward Lowassa) katika Chama Cha Mapinduzi.
Jibu: Kilichosemwa juu ya watajwa kinaweza kulalamikiwa na watajwa wenyewe iwapo wanaona kuwa hakipo. Gazeti limenukuu wahusika ambao wana uwezo wa kuthibitisha hayo. Hapa hakuna uchochezi.
3. Tuhuma: Kuchochea chuki na uhasama kwa kulinganisha hali iliyofanya Rais Thabo Mbeki wa Afrika Kusini ajiuzulu na hali ilivyo Tanzania .
Jibu: Gazeti lina nafasi ya kuangalia, kuchambua na kulinganisha. Kinachoonekana kuwa tofauti kati yako na mwandishi wa habari ni suala la mtazamo tu na hakihusiani na uchochezi.
4. Tuhuma: Kutumia vibaya uhuru wa kuandika habari, kwa kuvuka ukomo wa uhuru wa mhariri unapoishia na kuingilia uhuru wa wengine.
Jibu: Hatuna popote pale tulipokiuka “ukomo wa uhuru” wa mhariri wala kuingilia uhuru wa mtu mwingine. Habari husika inajadili “watu wa umma” katika nafasi za utumishi wa umma; katika maeneo ambayo hawawezi kukana wala kudai kwenda mahakamani kwani itathibitika kinyume na madai yoyote yale dhidi ya chombo hiki cha habari. Aidha, ofisi yako inajua vema kwamba haijawahi kueleza “ukomo wa uhuru,” jambo ambalo lingeleta utata wa kisheria na mgogoro wa Katiba. Hapa hakuna uchochezi.
5. Tuhuma: Kudanganya kuwa juhudi zote za kumpata Bwana Ridhiwani zimeshindikana bila uthibitisho.
Jibu: Tunao uthibitisho wa hilo kwa siku na saa ambapo tulijitahidi kumpata. Hapa hakuna uchochezi.
Naomba kuwasilisha kwamba hakuna tulipofanya uchochezi na wewe hustahili kuchukua hatua yoyote dhidi yetu.
Wizara ya Habari, Utamaduni na Michezo,
Dar es Salaam.
Mwanasheria Mkuu wa Serikali,
Dar es Salaam.