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SoE condemns Tanzanian newspaper closure

21 September 2017


The decision by Tanzania’s government to close a critical newspaper has been described as “an attempt to stifle free speech” by the Society of Editors.

MwanaHalisi, a weekly newspaper banned for the second time in three months, has been ordered to close for two years following accusations by the government that it is inciting violence.

The Society's condemnation comes as it prepares to debate the threats to press freedom worldwide at its annual conference in November. The importance of press freedom and ongoing clampdown on freedom of expression in Turkey and Hungary will form the discussion alongside an exploration of global threats to freedom of speech. 

The Society of Editors said: “The decision by the Tanzanian government to close an opposition newspaper is deeply concerning.

“Worldwide we are seeing more and more governments attempt to stamp out critical voices and opposition by clamping down on freedom of expression and legitimate discussion of matters of public interest.

“As we have seen closer to home in Hungary and Turkey, the decision by the Tanzanian government to silence dissenting voices is a deliberate attack on freedom of expression and part of a broader clampdown on freedom of speech that we are witnessing more frequently worldwide.”

The decision to close MwanaHalisi comes after another newspaper, Mawio, was banned earlier this year over articles linking two former presidents to alleged improprieties. The move has been criticised by opponents of the government as an attempt by the ruling party to clamp down on opposition and stifle criticism and dissent. Legislation passed in 2016 gives officials the power to shut down media organisations that violate licenses that are reviewed annually. 

The Society's 'Fighting for real news' conference will look at Freedom of Expression on Monday 13 November at the University of Cambridge's prestigious Clare College. The session will hear from Yavuz Baydar, co-founder of P24, an independent media platform set up to   monitor the media sector in Turkey. Since the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, more than 150 journalists have been arrested and jailed with 180 news organisations shut down under laws passed by presidential decree. 

Also confirmed include Andras Muranyi, Former editor of Nepszabadsag newspaper in Hungary. The paper was closed down amid government pressure in October 2016. Tim MacGabhann, a freelance journalist formerly based in Mexico City will discuss press freedom in Mexico. Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship will chair the panel.

The conference is sponsored by Camelot, which has sponsored the Society of Editors since 2001, United Utilities, Google, BBC News, JTI,  Foot Anstey, PCS, NLA Media Access, Waitrose, Cambridge News, Press Assocation, Visit Cambridge and Beyond and HoldTheFrontPage. 

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