Tanzania ordered all unregistered bloggers and online forumsÂ on MondayÂ to suspend their websites immediately or face criminal prosecution, as critics accuse the government of tightening control of internet content.Â
Several sites, including popular online discussion platform Jamiiforums, saidÂ on MondayÂ they had temporarily shut down after the state-run Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) warned it would take legal action against all unlicensed websites.
Regulations passed in March made it compulsory for bloggers and owners of other online forums such as YouTube channels to register with the government and pay up to $900 for a license. Per capita income in Tanzania is slightly below $900 a year.
Digital activists say the law is part of a crackdown on dissent and free speech by the government of President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015. Government officials argue the new rules are aimed at tackling hate speech and other online crimes, including cyberbullying and pornography.
â€œAll unregistered online content providers must be licensed beforeÂ June 15. Starting from todayÂ June 11 until June 15, they are prohibited from posting any new content on their blogs, forums or online radios and televisions,â€ the regulator said in a statementÂ on Monday.
The statement said legal action would be taken against any unregistered websites posting new content.
Anyone convicted of defying the new regulations faces a fine of at least 5 million shillings ($2,200), imprisonment for a minimum 12 months, or both.
Jamiiforums, a whistle-blowing website, said it had shut down its online discussion platform after the threat from the communications watchdog. The website has been enmeshed in a court battle for nearly a year to keep the site online.
The websiteâ€™s slogan is â€œwhere we dare to talk openlyâ€. Most users post their comments under pseudonyms, but the website has been accused by authorities and individuals of allowing people to post fabricated allegations.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders group has said the new online content rules â€œwill kill off Tanzaniaâ€™s blogosphereâ€.
This year neighboring Uganda and Kenya have also moved to regulate internet uses with new laws, though their new rules are less strict than Tanzaniaâ€™s.Â (Reuters)