Center for Strategic Litigation vs. The Attorney General of United Republic of Tanzania Reference No 34 of 2023

On July 29, 2023, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) issued a statement banning the song “Amkeni” by Tanzanian rapper Emmanuel Elibariki, known as Nay wa Mitego, from all media outlets and social media platforms. This ban was purportedly recommended by the National Arts Council (BASATA), alleging that the song undermined confidence in the government, promoted negativity, and sowed discord between the government and its citizens. However, neither authority disclosed specific complaints or sources of discontent, exercising censorship powers that infringed upon the artist’s freedom of expression and the public’s right to information and opinion, violating both the Tanzanian constitution and the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community.

Aggrieved by the authoritarian conduct of these agencies, the Center for Strategic Litigation (CSL) filed a petition at the East African Court of Justice to challenge the unchecked powers of the National Arts Council (BASATA) as provided in the 1974 National Arts Council Act. CSL argues that the actions of TCRA and BASATA impede democratic ideals and human rights principles, viewing the prohibition on the song “Amkeni” as a restriction on freedom of expression and a hindrance to democratic discourse within the East African Community. The applicant asserts that these actions violate the provisions of the EAC Treaty, particularly Articles 6(d) and 7(2), which uphold principles of democracy, rule of law, and good governance. Seeking relief, CSL requests the Court to declare that the actions of the Tanzanian government agencies contravene international principles and the EAC Treaty. The case also seeks an order to lift the prohibition on the song “Amkeni” and to refrain from imposing further restrictions on artistic expression. Furthermore, CSL seeks an order to refrain from hindering artistic expression without undue interference and a declaration that certain sections of the National Arts Council Act contravene freedom of expression and artistic freedom. Finally, the petition asks for an order to review and amend relevant sections of the Act to align with international standards.

The case is still pending at the East African Court of Justice waiting for a Court date.

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