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Media Services Act (MSA) 2016 challenged to EACJ

Litigation1

The Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), and a coalition of human rights organisations on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 petitioned the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) challenging the media act recently signed into law by the President.

The other petitioners alongside the Media Council include the Legal and Human Right Centre (LHRC) and the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC).

In the petition filed under reference number 2/2017, the petitioners are challenging sections of the Media Services Act (MSA) 2016 which they argue, is a threat to press freedom and freedom of expression.

The petitioners state that the new law is in violation of Tanzania’s obligation under the East African Treaty to uphold and protect human and peoples’ rights standards as specified in Articles 6 (d), 7 (2) of the Treaty.

The Media Service Act No. 12 of 2016 was enacted by the Parliament of United Republic of Tanzania on 5th November 2016 and assented to by President John Magufuli on 16th November 2016.

The petitioners are represented by lawyers; Fulgence Massawe, Donald Deya, Jenerali Ulimwengu, Jebra Kambole, Francis Stolla and Mpale Mpoki.

According to the petitioners, the Media Services Act is an unjustified restriction on the freedom of expression and of the press, which is a cornerstone of the principle of democracy, rule of law, accountability, transparency and good governance.

Article 6(d) of the EAC treaty provides the principles of the community to be good governance including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, equal opportunities, gender equality, as well as the recognition, promotion and protection of human and people’s rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right.

Also, Article 7(2) of the EAC Treaty provides that the Partner States undertake to abide by the principles of good governance, including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, social justice and the maintenance of universally accepted standards of human rights.

In addition, pursuant to Article 8(1) (c) of the Treaty, Tanzania has undertaken to “abstain from any measures likely to jeopardise the achievement of those objectives or the implementation of the provisions of the Treaty.

Tanzania is a member state of the East African Community having acceded to the Treaty on 7th July 2000. Under Article 23 of the Treaty, the EACJ is tasked with ensuring the adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the EAC treaty.

The EACJ is the only appropriate court that rules on matters regarding the interpretation and application of Partners States’ obligations under the EAC treaty.

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