The European Union Delegation issues the following statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission in Tanzania.
The EU Delegation is concerned about the decision by Tanzanian authorities to temporarily suspend the Mwananchi and Mtanzania newspapers and about the related restrictions on the Mwananchi website and the Rai newspaper. It has taken note of the reaction to these decisions, by civil society and media organisations.
It is the duty of the media to work within the law and to make every effort to adopt and adhere to professional standards. But Press Freedom and freedom of expression are fundamental rights of the people which call for circumspection and proportionality in the application of the laws that govern the media.
A modern Right to Information Act and updated media legislation would contribute to a more open and conducive environment for the press. It is recalled that in October 2010 the EU’s independent Election Observation Mission recommended to expedite the modernisation of the media laws, taking into account stakeholders’ views. It also recommended a better defined mechanism to resolve conflicts and complaints.
The partnership between the European Union and Tanzania is underpinned by a joint commitment to fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression and information. The press has a key role to play in informing society and in promoting values and rights. The role of the press is also important to continue deepening the democratisation process.
The Delegation of the European Union therefore calls upon the authorities to make every effort to preserve the freedom of expression and promote the right to information. A responsible press plays a key role in this regard and the Delegation of the European Union urges all stakeholders to prioritise constructive dialogue as the primary means to resolve differences.
The High Commission of Canada and Embassies of Norway and Switzerland associate themselves with this statement.