Tanzania drops prison threat over publishing independent statistics
A major turning point in freedom of speech and freedom of information came last week following another amendment to the Tanzanian Statistics Act, which now no longer criminalizes the publishing of independent statistical information.
The Statistics Act was passed in 2015 and criminalized the publication of “false official statics” or disseminating data that resulted in a “distortion of facts”, Oryem Nyeko, a Human Rights Watch researcher, reports.
“In 2017, police arrested opposition politician Zitto Kabwe for violating the law for remarks he made about Tanzania’s economic growth,” Nyeko writes. Though, Nyeko added that “He was never charged and eventually released”.
Following this, another amendment to Tanzania’s Statistics Act came last year (2018) through the Written Laws Act, which prevented any distortion or discrediting of the data collected and provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). According to The Citizen, the amendment also blocked individuals and institutions from conducting their own survey polls, as well as other forms of research and disseminating the information collected to the public without approval of the NBS.
The penalty for violation of the amended law was a “$6,000 fine or a three-year prison sentence”, the Citizen reports. This effectively gave the state a monopoly on statistical data, as well as free reign to potentially manipulate figures without any means of recourse for private citizens and institutions or otherwise non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to disprove the state’s figures should this happen.
For this reason, the decision sparked harsh criticism and condemnation from stakeholders, the public, and even the World Bank, who withheld a $50 million grant for government statistics research over concerns of freedom of speech.
On October 2nd, 2018, the World Bank released this statement on the matter:
The World Bank is deeply concerned about the recent amendments to Tanzania’s 2015 Statistics Act, which are out of line with international standards such as the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and the African Charter on Statistics. We have shared our concerns with the Tanzanian authorities that the amendments, if implemented, could have serious impacts on the generation and use of official and non-official statistics, which are a vital foundation for the country’s development.
“The pressure seems to have worked,” Nyeko writes. However, he goes on to say that he is still concerned about eight bills that were proposed this year which would have run contrary to this most recent decision, reinforcing, rather than diminishing, the anti-freedom aspects of the law.
Every person now has the right to collect and publish statistics and criminal liability has been removed from the law – all of this in a country with a reputation for suppressing the press.
UPDATE: Around 8 pm on Tuesday evening, police moved in on blockaders who were blocking the train tracks. Independent photojournalist Beth Baisch continues to try to cover the blockade and continues to be followed by a harassing anti-pipeline activist.
An anti-pipeline blockade was established in Toronto near the corner of Jane and Dundas at the end of the workday on Tuesday. Police were quick to respond and are currently facing off against the blockaders.
Police took some blockaders off the tracks but others remain and the tracks are still blocked as blockaders are demanding an Indigenous liaison.
Photojournalist Beth Baisch, who has freelanced for The Post Millennial, is on the scene, is being blocked from taking video by activists.
The blockade was set up by Toronto group Rising Tide Toronto and was one of a few blockades that prevented thousands of people from getting home from work.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
Conservative leadership candidate, Peter MacKay, is not a fan of the legalization of marijuana. He says he is worried about how it will affect driving, mental health and young people according to Vice.
During an interview with the Kelowna Daily Courier MacKay said that he believes the legalization of marijuana was “forced” and it should only have been decriminalized.
“It should have been decriminalized and that’s where our government was heading on the advice of the Canadian Police Association and chiefs of police. Bringing in a phased-way with decriminalization would have been far preferable. What I most worry about is the impact on young people, the mental health implications, the impaired driving implications,” said MacKay.
Stats Canada released information that conflicts with some of MacKay’s views. The statistics show that consumption of marijuana in 15-17-year-olds has dropped 10 percent since its legalization.
MacKay described the legalization as a “back-of-a-napkin promise that the current prime minister had made.”
He also called the attempt by the government to reduce black market sales a “complete failure.”
“I believe we have jumped the shark on that issue. More emphasis on protecting people from other drugs, fentanyl and oxycontin has to be part of any plan that’s there for public health reasons.” MacKay continued.
“The promise that it (legalization) was going to reduce the black market has been a complete failure. There’s now simply more marijuana available to more people, including young people. I don’t think that’s the most productive and highest priority that a government could pursue.”
MacKay is not the only politician against cannabis legalization. Former Conservative MP Julian Fantino compared legalization to murder in an old interview with the Toronto Sun, Fantino said, “I guess we can legalize murder, too, and then we won’t have a murder case”
In 2015, Fantino said he was still “completely opposed to legalization of marijuana”
Peter MacKay’s campaign manager Alex Nuttall has had to apologize over a tweet that seemed to link an invitation to a shooting range with complaints about the anti-pipeline protests.
In his original tweet, Nuttall said “tonight might be the best church service ever. People keep walking up to me to saying the blockade should go down … and then they announced a day at the range for anyone that wants to go.”
This tweet soon created outrage on social media, with many seeing Nuttall’s message as a suggestion for Canadians to “shoot ingenious people.” Nuttall, however, was quickly clarified his tweet, saying “there are two unrelated thoughts that shouldn’t have been communicated together.”
Peter MacKay’s campaign has been plagued with mistakes on social media. A few weeks ago, Mackay had to apologize for a tweet referencing the Prime Minister’s indulgence in yoga, which seemed to make fun of the innocuous activity.
After Nuttall published the apology, he made his Twitter account private.
A murder with a hammer that killed a 64-year-old Toronto woman on Feb. 21 is being called a terrorist attack by police, as the murderer now faces terrorism-related charges.
Police say Saad Akhtar, 30, was facing first-degree murder charges over the death of the woman, when those charges were changed to “murder-terrorist activity” by prosecutors. The change was made due to the prosecutors belief that the murder constituted terrorist activity.
“As part of our investigation into the homicide, we came across evidence that lead us to believe there may be a terrorism-related offence,” said Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray to Global News.
Police contacted the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team in Toronto, the group responsible for probing terrorism cases. The charges were then changed Monday morning.
Akhtar would eventually turn himself into police shortly after the attack.
The victim was apparently a random target. Sixty-four-year-old Hang-Kam Annie Chiu was called “a stranger” by the suspect’s mother.
If found guilty of terrorism charges, it would be the first deadly terrorist instance since the July 22, 2018 Danforth shootings in which Faisal Hussain killed two people and injured 13 in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood.
Akhtar’s murder occurred on his usual daily walk home from his local mosque, but his mother claims he did not return home at the usual time. Police say the murder did not occur on Akhtar’s usual route home.