Media and Human Rights Organisations Challenge the Media Services Act, 2016 at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ)
The Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), Legal and Human Right Centre (LHRC), and Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) have today 11th of January 2017 lodged a petition at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to challenge the newly passed Media Service Act No.12 of 2016.
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. A team of lawyers is representing the parties at the EACJ including attorneys, Fulgence Massawe, Donald Deya, Jenerali Ulimwengu, Jebra Kambole, Francis Stolla and Mpale Mpoki.
The petitioners to the suit are challenging sections of the Media Services Act (MSA) 2016 that are deemed to be a threat to press freedom and freedom of expression and thereby constitute a 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”.
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.
Article 7(2)of the EAC Treaty provides thatthe 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.
The Media Services Act, according to the parties to the suit comes as 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.
Tanzania is a partner 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 Treaty. The EACJ has confirmed a previous its case that it is the only appropriate Court to rule on questions regarding the interpretation and application of Partners States’ obligations under the Treaty.
The Court has previously held that interpretation of the question whether Articles 6(d) and 7(2) of the Treaty have been violated squarely falls within the ambit of its jurisdiction.
Kajubi D. Mukajanga
Media Council of Tanzania
January 11, 2017