President announces crackdown on pornographers

Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa recently announced his government would be cracking down on pornography, particularly on the internet, the BBC reported on Tuesday. At the opening ceremony of the Christian Council of Tanzania’s (CCT) general meeting, Mkapa pleased Tanzania’s Christian leaders by pledging to prevent the spread of pornography via electronic and other media.

A leading member of CCT, Father Paul Prospanjoka of St Joseph’s Cathedral in Dar es Salaam called on the government to clamp down hard on pornographers: “They must take legal action against everyone involved with this,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC. Along with other religious leaders attending the meeting, Prospanjoka was concerned about the effects pornography was having on young people’s morals: “The government must see to it that the youth do not stray,” he said. Prospanjoka was also concerned that the rise in pornography was part of the wider corruption of traditional Tanzanian lifestyles: “Most of it is western, so it affects our culture, our way of living as Africans,” he said.
Pornography is illegal in Tanzania.

However, with greater access to technology and increasing internet usage, Tanzania’s anti-pornography laws are becoming more difficult to enforce. Of particular concern is the spread of child pornography. At a recent meeting of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, Switzerland, the committee raised concerns about the large and reportedly increasing number of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex tourism in Tanzania, including prostitution and pornography. It recommended that the government examine the issues, and implement policies aimed at stamping out the sexual exploitation of children as a matter of urgency.

Under Tanzania’s Sexual Offences Act of 1998, people found guilty of the sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography, can face long jail terms. The Act also prohibits the trafficking of children, and provides greater protection for women against sexual abuse.

Despite strong words from Mkapa and the passing of tough new laws, Tanzania still lacks the resources to put its anti-pornography policies into practice. The body charged with policing the internet, the Tanzania Communications Commission (TCC), will have to find a way of stretching resources if it is to control the problem. Isaac Mruma, public relations officer for the TCC, was quoted by the BBC as saying that he accepted there were “huge technical problems” with blocking content. He claimed, however, that legal responsibility for monitoring content fell on the internet service providers (ISPs), rather than the TCC: “A condition of their licence is that they operate within the law,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC.

Pritesh Gajjir, who runs an internet service provider, was quoted by the BBC as saying the biggest problem associated with promoting of the internet in Tanzania was a lack of high quality local content. “What we need is more quality Tanzanian content on the net, so that young people are not drawn into viewing these explicit pictures,” he said.