DAR ES SALAAM
For the second day on Thursday police failed to take to court Mwananchi Communications Limited (MCL)’s, acting managing director, Mr Theophil Makunga.
Police could not take Mr Makunga to court yesterday because they wanted to interrogate him more on the technicalities of newspaper printing.
Initially, Mr Makunga was to be charged on Wednesday but when he was taken before a magistrate, the police asked for more time until yesterday to prepare a charge sheet and other relevant documents before formally charging the senior journalist.
The court was told of the ongoing heavy downpour in Dar es Salaam which is blamed for disrupting the gathering of evidence and preparation of the charge.
Police want to join him in a case in which a columnist with a privately-owned Kiswahili daily, Tanzania Daima, Samson Mwigamba and the newspaper’s chief editor, Absalom Kibanda are charged with authoring and publishing an article inciting solders to mutiny. The two had denied the charges. Concerns have been raised over the legality to charge Mr Makunga who is neither an author nor an editor to the article but a mere head of a company which has a contract to print the newspaper.
Police summoned Mr Makunga and plans to charge him in personal capacity and not as MCL employee which has entered into contract with Free Media to prints its product. The contract is not between Mr Makunga and Kibanda.
“I am wondering why they want to charge me in person instead of MCL,” said Mr Makunga, adding: “It is so disturbing and I feel that it is quite unfair to bring a case against me instead of MCL as my employer,” he said.
Media practitioners have been calling for the scrapping of draconian media laws like the one holding printers responsible for a content, which under normal practice, cannot have access to it before printing.
“Normally the content is electronically sent to the printer and the printer cannot easily have access to that content before printing…so the owner of the content is the one who is supposed to be held accountable for any query,” said a city lawyer who asked not to be named.
The arraignment of the two editors and a plan to join Mr Makunga in the case has been greeted with fierce criticism by activist and media practitioners, who cautioned that the use of draconian outdated media laws was threatening freedom of the press and could tarnish the image of the country abroad.
The Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) issued a statement on Tuesday, cautioning the government over the use of draconian laws against the media.
“We would not want to interfere with judicial proceedings but MCT would like to caution the government to desist from using outdated laws to deal with media problems,” read part of MCT statement.