Strict bill threatens Tanzania’s film industry

African Film maker
African Film maker

A Tanzanian bill rushed through parliament demands that film companies share their raw footage with the government and allow it to use the footage to promote the country.

Tanzania’s Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments No. 3 of 2019) Bill, made public on June 19 and being debated under a “certificate of urgency” to speed up its passage, would restrict the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association, including placing impermissible restrictions on civil society organisations and entrenching censorship, Amnesty International has warned.

“This … requires any foreign production company or individual using Tanzania’s country, content or location for filming whole or any part of a film, advertisement, documentary or program to submit their raw footage to the Tanzania Film Board,” Attorney General Adelardus Kilangi said.

Foreign individuals or companies will also be required to allow the government to use video clips or the whole film to promote Tanzania and its culture. Failure to comply will leave the entity responsible for a fine of five percent of the production budget, he added.

The Written Laws Bill would effect changes to eight existing Acts of Parliament. Some of the laws to be affected are the Companies Act, the NGO Act, the Statistics Act, and the Films and Stage Plays Act. The proposed amendments to the Companies Act will give the Registrar of Companies broad powers and wide discretion to de-register a company on the basis of undefined and vague terms such as “terrorism financing” or “operating contrary to its objectives,” Amnesty said.

“As currently worded, the Registrar can de-register companies at will for, among other reasons, associating with or supporting the activities of NGOs, which would create uncertainty in the business and employment sectors, and may reduce access to vital services to communities across the country,” said Ms Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

The haste in which the bill was passed blind sighted the relevant stakeholders who according to media reports would likely squash the country’s fledgling foreign film ventures.

“Putting these requirements in a law is like pushing away individuals from working in Tanzania. These are not friendly conditions, instead of promoting the industry they will hold it back,” said Salome Makamba, an opposition lawmaker told CGTN.

Furthermore, film makers in Tanzania are worried about how the bill will affect their bottom line. In the past year, Arts and entertainment grew 13.7 percent which is twice the national economic growth rate of 7 per cent, according to the ministry of finance.