Senior journalist Simon Mkina (44) and a Printer, Ismail Mehbood (24), appeared before the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam facing five counts relating to publishing and printing seditious material.
They were charged alongside two others, Jabir Yunus (52), another journalist; and Tundu Lissu, Member of Parliament for Singida East on Chadema ticket, who were not before the court.
The charges include conspiracy to publish seditious publication, publishing and printing a seditious publication and printing a newspaper without submission of an affidavit. There was an alternative count of intimidation to the charge of publishing seditious publication.
Mkina and Mehbood denied the charges before Principal Resident Magistrate Thomas Simba. The magistrate granted bail to the duo until June 28 on condition of securing two reliable sureties each. Every surety, according to the magistrate, was required to sign a bond of 10m/-.
Mr Simba further served summonses on Yunus and Lissu to attend the case on the said date when the prosecution would read over the charges against them.
State Attorney Paul Kadushi, for the prosecution, told the court that between January 12 and 14, this year, at unknown place in the city, Yunus, Mkina and Lissu conspired together to publish a seditious publication.
According to the prosecution, the publication bore tile “Machafuko yaja Zanzibar,” in the newspaper namely ‘Mawio’ dated January 14, 2016.
The prosecution alleged that the said accused persons published the seditious publication on January 14, this year, in Dar es Salaam, with intent to excite disaffection to the people of Zanzibar against lawful authority of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government.
On January 13, this year, at Jamana House in Ilala District, Mehbood printed the seditious publication contained in the newspaper for similar purposes and further printed ‘Mawio’ without prior submission of an affidavit to the Registrar of Newspapers.
Yunus, Mkina and Lissu were charged with an alternative count of intimidation to that of publishing seditious publication. The prosecution told the court that the accused persons committed the offence on January 14, this year.
It was alleged that wrongfully and without legal authority, the trio, having published the controversial article, intimidated the people of Tanzania- Zanzibar to refrain from the 2016 Zanzibar General Election re-run.
The accused persons, according to the prosecution, had indicated in the article that the re-run of the said elections would lead into an outbreak of war and public unrest, resulting into bloodshed.
Immediately after the court had verified the bail conditions for the accused, Advocate Peter Kibatala raised two preliminary points of objections relating to the charge sheet and the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the same.
He submitted that counts of conspiracy and that of intimidation should be struck out because the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has not issued any certificate of consent for the court to try them.
The advocate told the court that the DPP has only provided consent in respect of count relating to printing seditious publication. In respect of other counts, the advocate submitted that they were also defective for lack of sufficient particulars and ingredients of the offences charged.
State Attorney Paul Kadushi requested the court to give him time to respond to the two arguments, claiming that he has been taken by surprise by the defence. The magistrate granted the request and adjourned the case to June 28.