But even after providing this documentation, authorities still reserve the right to revoke a permit if a site publishes content that “causes annoyance, threatens harm or evil, encourages or incites crimes” or jeopardizes “national security or public health and safety.” Officials could also force managers to remove “prohibited content” within 12 hours or face fines not less than five million shillings ($2,210) or a year in prison.
The sweeping regulation, dubbed the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2018, is set to give the government unfettered powers to police the web. When it was first proposed last year, observers and activists argued that some of the law’s definitions and wording were ambiguous, violated individual privacy, curtailed citizen’s right to free speech and expression, and went against the spirit of an open internet. Internet cafés are also expected to install surveillance cameras to record and archive activities inside their business premises.
The annual $930 fee would likely be exorbitant for an independent blogger in a country where the gross national income per capita is just $900. The passing of the law is a culmination of president John Magufuli’s government’s clampdown on media outlets and social media use in the country.