Saturday, February 17, 2018
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Proposed Regulations on On-line Content are damned restrictive - Twaweza


Twaweza has worked out scenarios which would be illegal with The Electronic and Postal Communication (Online Content) Regulations, 2017


A journalism student wants to build up her profile and develop her skills, to make herself more attractive to potential employers. So she decides to starts a blog, posting some of her student assignments and other articles about student life. These posts become popular, and her fellow students enjoy commenting on her articles and the photos she shares.

  • Under the proposed regulations, she would have to register her blog with TCRA. This will probably involve paying a fee, which she can't really afford. And she would also have to read every comment before it's published, which she doesn't have the time to do. So she shuts down the blog.

A ward councilor has set up a Facebook page for himself. Many the residents of his ward support him, so they "like" his page. He posts news of his activities in council and around the ward, and asks his followers for their comments and suggestions.

  • Under the proposed regulations, he would have to pre-approve every comment and suggestion before it appears on his Facebook page. Facebook doesn't have the settings that would allow him to do this, so he has a choice: close down the page and lose the useful suggestions of his constituents, or keep the page option and risk prosecution.

A junior civil servant discovers information that a well-known businessman is exporting gemstones without paying any taxes, and that the permanent secretary of their department has been paid to keep quiet. The civil servant knows that if she reports this to her boss, she will probably lose her job. And she's worried that if she speaks out in public, the businessman will be angry and will find a way to get back at her. So she joins an online forum, without revealing her name, and shares the information she has on there. The corruption is revealed, the authorities can investigate, and the civil servant remains safely anonymous.

  • Under the proposed regulations, the businessman could go to court to force the online forum to find out her name. If the forum owners don't reveal her name they could go to prison. In fact, even just not knowing her name could get them a prison sentence. So they tell the businessman her name.

A young woman in Dar es Salaam is upset about the poor state of the roads near her house. She posts a photo on Facebook, asking why her MP has allowed this to happen, and accuses him of being lazy.

  • Under the proposed regulations, if the MP is offended by this, she could be prosecuted and fined 5 million shillings, or even given a prison sentence.

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