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Tanzania lifts ban on four newspapers

Civilians read newspapers on display following the death of Tanzania's President John Magufuli in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania March 18, 2021. [Reuters]

Tanzania has lifted a ban on four newspapers, a senior government official said on Thursday, part of a fitful policy by President Samia Suluhu Hassan to relax media restrictions imposed during her predecessor's five years in office.

Nape Nnauye, the minister for Information and Information Communication Technology, issued publishing licences to newspapers Mwanahalisi, Mawio, Mseto and Tanzania Daima, an opposition-leaning outlet.

Hassan, who took office last year, previously lifted a ban imposed by late President John Magufuli on some online television channels. However, her government has also imposed its own restrictions on other newspapers.

Saed Kubenea, the director of Hali Halisi publishers which owns some of the reinstated newspapers, said Thursday's decision was encouraging.

"Nearly all these newspapers finished their punishments two or three years ago and also they won court cases. However, they were not allowed to go back to the market. But let bygones be bygones," he said after receiving the licences.

The four newspapers were banned during the Magufuli administration for a variety of reasons, including incitement.

Rights groups accused Magufuli of suppressing media freedom, which the government denied.

Last year, Hassan's government temporarily banned two newspapers including the ruling party-owned newspaper, Uhuru for publishing false news against the president.