Tanzania: Papers closed for 'provoking hostility'

Men in Zanzibar study the headlines at a newspaper stall

Tanzania's government tackles hostile newspaper coverage by banning the publications, it seems.

Swahili newspapers Mwananchi and Mtanzania were banned for 14 and 90 days respectively, with the country's director of information blaming headlines such as Bloody Presidency and A Revolution Is Inevitable for "provoking hostility", according to English-language paper The Citizen. Mwananchi had also published a story about new government salary structures, based on a confidential dossier, it's reported.

The ban sparked an outcry among media stakeholders, academics and politicians, with the country's Media Council chief reportedly describing it as an assault on the democratic principle of freedom of expression. Mwananchi's bosses insist there was no "ulterior motive" and that it simply wanted to keep the public informed, the Citizen reports. Tanzania has a mixed reputation for media freedom, with watchdog Reporters Without Borders placing it 34th of 179 countries in its 2012 Press Freedom Index. However, it fell to 70th last year, after the deaths of two journalists, and government-owned media are "largely biased" toward the ruling party, says US-based Freedom House.

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