24 October 2020
Eng. James M. Kilaba,
Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA),
Mawasiliano Towers, 20 Sam Nujoma Road,
P.O Box 474,
14414 Dar es Salaam,
+255 22 2199769,
Fax: +255 22 2412009 / +255 22 2412010,
RE: A Call for Non-Interference in the General Elections in the United Republic of Tanzania
We, members of Tanzania Elections Watch (TEW) seek your indulgence with regard to the upcoming elections in Tanzania on October 28th 2020.
Tanzania Elections Watch (TEW) is a regional initiative whose mandate is to shed light on the electoral context in the United Republic of Tanzania and offer a regional response to the same. The initiative focuses on growing regional and international attention and response to the electoral situation in Tanzania.
The TEW initiative has put together a dedicated panel of eminent persons made up of well reputed individuals from the region to critically debate key developments and events as they unfold in order to trigger appropriate responses to address the prevalent human rights and political concerns being observed in Tanzania.
We appreciate the critical role of the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) as an important stakeholder in the elections and urge the authority to exercise its mandate with maximum impartiality as a quasi-independent government regulator. We appreciate the critical role of the TCRA in enabling or limiting the free exchange of information during this crucial democratic moment and wish to implore you to adhere to international best standards for such regulations as enshrined in the African Commission’s Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections in Africa.
As noted in the Guidelines, the right of Access to information is foundational to any other rights relevant to effective participation in the democratic processes including elections as envisaged in Article 13 of the
African Charter on Human and People’s rights.
The Panel acknowledges your work and as the regulator and facilitator and your exemplary role in the growth and expansion of electronic and postal communications in Tanzania. We are however, appalled by recent reports of several and disproportionate media restrictions in the form of suspension, banning and fining of media outlets. These suspensions, bans and fines based on alleged claims of generating and disseminating, biased and misleading content of various media outlets is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression and information. We are concerned that the exercise of your mandate does not meet the test of proportionality set out in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
We are further concerned about the July 2020 legislative development, which further restricts the freedoms of expression and information. We also note, the August 2020 amendments to the Electronic and Postal Communications (Radio and Television Broadcast) Regulations. New subsections to Section 37, compel licensed local broadcasters to seek TCRA permission to air content produced in collaboration with regional and international broadcast partners. More recent, reports of the notice by the authority on temporal suspension of bulk messaging and bulk voice calling services, further restrict the opportunity for Tanzanians, to freely exchange critical information relevant to elections, in violation of Article 18 of the
United Republic of Tanzania constitution of 1977.
We are concerned that based on the observations above, the conduct of the authority is likely to impact on the transparency of the electoral process, thereby putting a dent on its credibility. Constitutionally guaranteed rights, such as the right of Access of Information, ought to be guarded jealously, in order for citizens to fully realize the democratic promise, enshrined in Article 3 of the Tanzanian constitution.
As the country goes to the polls on the 28 October 2020, the panel calls upon you to work with utmost impartiality and integrity to ensure that there is space for people to express themselves freely within the confines of domestic and international laws.
Kindly receive the assurances of our most distinguished sentiments.
Professor Frederick Ssempebwa – Chairperson
Ms. Alice Mogwe – Co-Chair
Dr. Willy Mutunga – Co-Chair