If you thought social media liberated your freedom of speech, do not reside in Tanzania. The state is now labelling it illegal to use social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to post rumours or messages that “ridicule, abuse or harm the reputation, prestige or status of the United Republic of Tanzania”.
In the new Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2020, which became operational on July 17, the state is taking control over the internet and social media interactions.
The new rules also prohibit any content which “threatens national security and public order” and that which “is involved in planning, organising, promoting or calling for demonstrations, marches or the like that may lead to public disorder”.
Also prohibited is content that would “harm the national currency or lead to confusion about the economic condition in the country” or is likely to “harm national unity or social peace and stability, promotes or favours”, sedition or provokes hate speech between individuals and groups.
Similarly, any information posted on “the outbreak of deadly or contagious diseases in the country or elsewhere without the approval of the respective authorities”, is not allowed.
Licensing categories for online content
The new regulations also now outline the licensing categories for online content creators. These are news and current affairs, education, religion and entertainment.
Applicants are required to specify just one category they intend to focus on, they have to present their curriculum vitae, national identity card numbers, and editorial policy guidelines, among others to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA).
Accordingly, the mainstream content service providers including radio and TV stations with restricted district or regional coverage licences are not be allowed to stream content on any online platform, including YouTube.
Also, any content on gambling, sports betting and lottery activities, via electronic channels, has also been prohibited.
These licences will be renewable after every three years and violators of the rules will face minimum penalties of a $2,175 fine or a one-year jail term, or both.
Interestingly, internet café operators are required to install surveillance cameras to record and archive activities inside the café, keep a proper customers register, and ensure every customer is registered upon showing a recognised identity card.
Source: The East African