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During the current session of Parliament in Tanzania, confusion has reigned about whether or not two potentially controversial and important bills will be passed under a Certificate of Emergency. The published timetable of Parliament indicates that they are, whereas the Speaker of Parliament has categorically denied this.

These bills have a long history in the country and have always been contentious.

In the circumstances, with no clarification in sight, the Media Council of Tanzania convened a meeting of stakeholders to discuss the way forward. The group included Twaweza, Freemedia Ltd, The Guardian Ltd, Hali Halisi Publishers, Legal and Human Rights Centre, Mwananchi Communications Ltd, National Organisation for Legal Assistance, Policy Forum, Sahara Media Group, Sikika, Tanganyika Law Society, Tanzania Citizens' Information Bureau, Tanzania Editors' Forum, Tanzania Media Fund and Tanzania Media Women's Association.

The statement (in Kiswahili only) congratulates the Government for placing these bills on the parliamentary schedule to honour its commitments and following their long history. The statement goes on to express serious concern at the news that these bills will be tabled in Parliament under a Certificate of Emergency and instead calls on Government to allow the bills to follow the normal process whereby the tabling, debate and voting are conducted separately. These bills would in that case only have their first reading in Parliament during the current session. If this call is not heeded, the statement calls on MPs to ensure that these bills do not pass.

On Friday 19 March, the statement was presented to the media. The group has als nominated a team who have begun travelling to Dodoma to pressure MPs to stop these bills from passing during this session of Parliament.

Read more: freedom of information

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