Imagine having to pay huge sums of money to the government before you can post content on your blog.

Ridiculous right? That is exactly what is happening to bloggers and other online content producers in Tanzania.

Tanzania’s communications regulator has issued a two-week deadline for bloggers to register their platforms under strict new online content rules, amid concerns that the government is cracking down on internet users.

The regulator said that bloggers convicted of failure to comply with the new rules could be subject to a fine of at least five million shillings (2,200 dollars) or a prison sentence of a minimum 12 months, or both.

The regulations passed in March make it mandatory for bloggers and owners of other online forums such as YouTube channels to register with the government and pay up to 900 dollars for a licence.

Digital activists said the move was the latest salvo in a crackdown on dissent and free speech by the government of President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015 and has pledged to speed up economic growth and development.

“All online content providers are required to complete the application process before 5 May 2018,” the state-run Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) said in a statement posted on its website.

The registration process was opened on Saturday.

Applicants are required to provide details of shareholders, share capital, citizenship of owners, staff qualification and training programmes, and a tax clearance certificate.

Most bloggers in Tanzania are individuals, without registered companies, making it difficult for them to meet the registration requirements, activists say.

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