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Tanzania: Diplomats query suspension of The Citizen Newspaper

Diplomats in Tanzania questioned the decision to impose a week-long closure on a key newspaper after officials accused it of falsely reporting currency exchange rates.

The action against The Citizen newspaper follows growing complaints by opposition supporters and civil society groups at what they say are moves to stifle dissent and create obstacles for journalists and rights activists.

British High Commissioner to Tanzania, Sarah Cooke took to Twitter to express her displeasure, questioning the magnitude of the punishment in respect to the problem.

Similar messages were posted by ambassadors from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden, in a rare joint public challenge to the authorities.

The Irish embassy expressed concerns about “this week’s decision to suspend The Citizen.”

However, the Statistics Act of 2017 bans any publication of statistical information contrary to the official figures, with possible jail terms for those who do.

The Citizen was accused of relaying false information in a recent article on the devaluation of Tanzanian shilling.

It reported the US dollar was selling at 2,415 Tanzanian shillings, compared to 2,300 at the central bank’s rate.

President John Magufuli is facing growing criticism from the opposition as well as from civil society groups and international donors at what they say are crackdowns on human rights.

The Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), a key Tanzanian human rights organisation, said the suspension was a “continuation of the crackdown on the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press in Tanzania.”

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