Tanzanian authorities have suspended the publication and circulation of a major regional newspaper across the African country, citing its lack of registration.
This came after the Tanzanian government expressed discontent with the Nairobi-based weekly East African’s reporting and analysis.
Tanzania Director of Information Services Assa Mwambene said Tuesday that the decision had been taken earlier this month because the paper “has been circulating in the country without being properly registered.”
The government has urged the East African’s bureau chief, Christopher Kidanka, to immediately stop to publishing, printing and circulating of the magazine across the country, he added.
Meanwhile, Tanzania’s Information Ministry officials have questioned the newspaper’s Tanzanian chief over polishing controversial contents. The officials have accused him of running a smear campaign and “having a negative agenda” against the country.
The officials in Dodoma have also objected to a recent cartoon by the newspaper that portrays Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete as an “incompetent and corrupt” person. They say the cartoon demonstrated bad taste and disrespect to the person and office of the president.
The management of the Nation Media Group (NMG), which owns the East African, described the decision by the government as surprising.
“Surely they can’t just wake up now and declare us illegal. If it were an issue of regularizing files, that would not require such a draconian measure of banning a newspaper,” NMG chairman Wilfred Kiboro said.
Several media rights groups, including Reporters Without Borders, have voiced concern over a possible crackdown on press freedom in the country.
However, the government has defended its decision, saying the East African will not be circulated in Tanzania until the legal issues are settled.