Tanzanian High Court on Friday issued an injunction order restraining the government from starting to regulate online content, which was to begin on May 5.

Neville Meena, secretary of the Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF), said the court’s decision followed submissions made by six institutions on April 30 asking the court to restrain the government from making online content regulations.

Meena said in the main case the institutions have asked the court to review the regulations on grounds that the minister for information has used powers outside his authority and that the regulations violated principles of natural justice.

According to him, the institutions are challenging the regulations as they contravened freedom of expression, the rights to be heard and the rights to privacy. The main case is set for hearing on May 10.

On April 21, the Tanzanian government, through its communications watchdog Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), issued a two-week deadline for all bloggers to register their platforms under tough new online content rules.

The regulations passed in March to enforce the Electronic and Postal Communications Act of 2010 made it compulsory for bloggers and owners of other online forums, including Youtube TV channels, to register their services and potentially pay up to 2.1 million shillings for registration and license fees.

The state-owned TCRA said in a statement that all online content providers are required to complete the application process before 5 May.

TCRA officially opened the registration process for blogs, online television stations, online radio and other online forums last week.

“Bloggers convicted of failure to comply with the new rules could face a fine of at least 5 million shillings or a prison sentence of a minimum of 12 months or both,” said the TCRA statement.

President John Magufuli last week ordered authorities to take legal action against anyone deemed to be “abusing” freedom of expression by posting misleading anti-government statements on social media.

The directive followed alleged misleading statements made by some opposition leaders on findings of the latest report by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG), with some figures accusing the government of looting from the 2016/17 budget. The government has dismissed the allegations.

The number of internet users in Tanzania rose 16 percent in 2017 to 23 million, with the majority of those using their mobile phone handsets to go online in the nation of around 52 million people. Enditem

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