Tanzanian bloggers and digital rights advocates have condemned the recently introduced license fee for bloggers in the country.
They made this call at a dinner organized by Paradigm Initiative in collaboration with Article 19 and HIVOS in Dar es Salam, Tanzania. Attendees at the July 9 dinner included a pool of local bloggers, lawyers, civil society organizations, the Dutch embassy, technical community, and media.
According to Wathagi Ndungu, Paradigm Initiative’s Google Policy Fellow, “the purpose of the dinner was to discuss the effects of the Electronic and Postal Communications Regulations 2018 that placed a requirement on bloggers and any other Internet-based service to share the names of their shareholders, their details, their approximate cost of investment, tax clearance certifications, pay slightly more than $900 in fees that includes an initial application fee, a licence fee and a renewable licence fee after 3 years and a lot more.”
‘Gbenga Sesan, Paradigm Initiative’s Executive Director and Sylvia Musalagani of Hivos led an interactive discussion with the participants.
Wilfred Warioba from the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance said “The new legislation is a tool that has been created to protect certain institutions. There is no room for these bloggers and online content creators to excel unless they touch on certain interests. This is a denial of the right to access to information but nonetheless, there is room for negotiation now that we are in the courts”
“You don’t have to be journalists to write and share any information. This new law denies new people space for innovation. Innovation through media is being stopped so how are we going to innovate through media if we are being stifled. On the economic front, it stifles the rights of the young people who have no resources but want to express themselves,” said a blogger at the dinner.
‘Gbenga Sesan also encouraged attendees to deliberate on the way forward in the fight against the license fee.
“What shall we do? What needs to be done? We should be able to have conversations around it. This is not just for bloggers. How do we let people know about this? The policy is for everyone. When an idea comes to you and you need help to you we are here to help. We always know someone who can hold hands. Let’s work together.” Sesan said.
Henry Maina, the regional director of Article 19 said, “Think about the reactive work e.g. where government and other actors have been ahead of us and we need to play catch up. We need the right people in the right spaces in order to move government on certain laws. It’s important to create standards because as specialists we cannot remain casual.”
Sylvia Musalangi of Hivos added, “We need to have more conversations on this. We need to get more voices. There is an issue on capacity in understanding the issues around this.”
It was agreed among all in attendance that it was vital to take immediate action and that it was paramount that all stakeholders have long-term conversations.