Tanzania is closing in on media control with strict regulations that will police online content, including bloggers and social media users. This has been brought to light by The Electoral and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2017 bill that was passed through the state’s parliament couple of days ago. The regulations will be enforced by the country’s ICT watchdog, Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA).
Included in the bill are several regulations that must be adhered to. Culprits will be fined up to $2300 that translates to 5 million of Tanzanian shillings, a minimum of 12 months in prison or both.
Ideally, the regulations state that online content producers or managers are responsible of what appears on their timelines or pages/websites they manage. Where materials are deemed ‘indecent, obscene, hate speech’ or content that encourages violence by inciting users to commit unlawful acts that may lead to public disorder or otherwise will be pinned on people behind such accounts.
That is not all; people who will publish information that screams propaganda, compromises national security or elicits a health crisis, racial tension/violence and terror attacks will be met with the punishment they deserve. That cuts through social media posts too.
At the same time, online service providers must install user manuals and record proceeding of their activities, which can be aided by CCT cameras at strategic locations of their areas of business.
The interesting bit is that online radio, TV as well as other digital-based platforms that include website content developers/managers and bloggers will need to acquire registration from the country’s ICT regulatory body TRCA as soon as the regulations are enacted fully. These managers will also be required to block anon users.
TCRA’s checks will be based on the regulations to tame immoral use of social media and websites that spread malicious content as it poisons the minds of unsuspecting readers However, and understandably so, the bill is being questioned by online activists who are accusing the Tanzanian government of going against the definition of free speech.