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Tanzania Ends Ban of Four Newspapers

Authorities Should Do More to Ensure Freedom of Expression

People stop to read front pages at a newspaper stand on a street in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, March 18, 2021. © AP Photo

Tanzania’s Minister for Information, Nape Nnauye, said in a recent meeting with editors that the government has lifted the ban on the Mseto, Mawio, Mwanahalisi, and Tanzania Daima newspapers. This is an important decision, as freedom of media and expression in Tanzania has seriously deteriorated since 2015 when the late President John Pombe Magufuli came to power.

Since 2015, authorities regularly revoked the licenses of newspapers for publishing material critical of the government.

In 2016, the information ministry banned Mseto for reporting corruption allegations in Magufuli’s presidential campaign. In 2017, they used the 2016 Media Services Act to ban Mawio after it published an article linking former presidents with a mining contracts scandal. That same year, Mwanahalisi was banned for allegations it tarnished Magufuli’s name. In 2020 ahead of the October elections, the ministry revoked the license of Tanzania Daima, whose owner is married to opposition leader Freeman Mbowe, over “excessive and repetitive nature of violations of the laws and the ethics of journalism.”  

The authorities have also regularly harassed journalists, activists, and political opposition leaders. The government has further failed to adequately investigate the disappearance of investigative journalist Azory Gwanda, who has been missing since November 2017 when he was picked up by unidentified people.

Although Nnauye told the editors at the February 10 meeting that the government is now ready to work with the media, the authorities need to do more to ensure freedom of media and expression in Tanzania. The authorities should start by reviewing repressive provisions in the Media Services Act, the Cybercrimes Act, and the Electronic and Postal (Online Content) Regulations, and protect journalists from physical attacks and arbitrary arrests.

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