Tanzania: 11 Petition Court Over Ban On Live Bunge Coverage

Eleven citizens yesterday filed a petition at the High Court challenging the government's restriction on live broadcasts of parliamentary sessions.

They are: Aziz Himbuka, Perfect Mwasilelwa, Rose Moshi, Penina Nkya, Moza Mushi and Andrew Mandali. Others are: Hilda Sigala, Juma Uloleulole, Kubra Manzi, Ray Kimbito and Ben-Rabiu Saanane. They are represented by advocates Peter Kibatala and Omar Msemo

The petitioners, among other things, are seeking declaratory orders that they have the constitutional right to unfettered access to parliamentary debates under Article 18 (b) and (d) and Article 29 (1) of the Constitution of United Republic of Tanzania.

They are also requesting the court to declare that the government of the United Republic of Tanzania violated the constitutional right of Tanzanians by imposing unreasonable and unjustifiable restrictions on the access of citizens to parliamentary debates. Furthermore, the petitioners are seeking orders that the government of the United Republic of Tanzania restore the constitutional right of the citizens of Tanzania to live broadcasts of parliamentary debates.

The respondents in the petition, which came up for mention yesterday before Principal Judge Ferdinand Wambali, are the Minister for Information, Youth and Culture and the Attorney General.

The respondents are represented by Senior State Attorney Abubakar Mrisho, who asked the court to grant him time to file his response to the petition.

The court granted the request and directed the respondents to file their reply on July 11. The matter will come up for mention on July 15 when the date for hearing will be set.

The petitioners state that the government has placed severe restrictions on live radio and television broadcasts of parliamentary sessions.

The restrictions were announced on January 27, this year, by the minister for Information, Youth and Culture, Mr Nape Nnauye, who said the decision was aimed at cutting costs.

"Consequent to the said restriction, our rights as well as those of other Tanzanians to monitor and supervise our Members of Parliament have been severely restricted because we cannot closely follow how our elected representatives act on our behalf," the petitioners say.

They also state that the restrictions have affected their constitutional right to information because they have been denied full access to parliamentary sessions, which is key to good governance and transparency in leadership and representation.

In view of this, the government has breached the Constitution, they allege.

"... all Tanzanian citizens have the constitutional right to full representation in Parliament. This includes the right to supervise MPs through the access to how the said legislators perform."

The petitioners further state that they have the full right to be participate in all matters that affect their welfare and that of their nation, including the right to supervise the Executive branch of the government through Parliament.

The government earlier this year ordered a drastic reduction in live broadcast of parliamentary sessions, prompting protests by the Opposition, media and rights activists, who said the decision amounted to censorship.

Parliament went further and banned live broadcasts by private broadcasters, saying the august House was making plans to have its own television channel.

In another development, the main opposition party, Chadema, yesterday filed a petition at the High Court in Dar es Salaam challenging the indefinite ban by the Police Force on political demonstrations and rallies.

Police said earlier this month that intelligence had established that political parties planned to use public rallies to incite civil disobedience.

Chadema spokesperson Tumaini Makene confirmed in a statement that the party had filed a petition at the High Court challenging the ban.

"The petitioners say that they were not involved in arriving at the decision, their right to be heard was denied and that the decision is oppressive and has no legal basis.

"The Police Force also overstepped its authority when it issued the order," the statement said. The government is required to file a counter-affidavit by June 30 ahead of the court's hearing of the matter on July 1 and ruling on July 4.

On June 21, the High Court in Mwanza dismissed Chadema's petition against the ban on a technicality.

Mr Justice Mohamed Gwae concurred with state attorneys Robert Kidando and Obadiah Kajungu that Chadema's charge sheet did not meet legal requirements.

They said the petitioners had filed the matter using incorrect provisions.

Source: The Citizen