Tanzania | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Tanzania

Tanzania

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

50

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

19

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

15

Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, several other laws limit the ability of media to function effectively. Authorities are empowered to register and ban newspapers under the Newspaper Registration Act "in the interest of peace and good order," while the Broadcasting Services Act provides for state regulation of electronic media, and the National Security Act allows the government to control the dissemination of information to the public. In December, two newspapers were suspended for violating the 1976 Newspaper Registration Act. Tanzania Daima, the Swahili-language paper owned by a member of the opposition, was suspended for three days for publishing a satirical picture and caption "injurious" to President Benjamin Mkapa. The weekly tabloid Amani was also suspended for 28 days for alleged ethical violations. Libel is a criminal offense, and the threats of jail time as well as of exorbitant, politically motivated fines are sometimes used to intimidate the media. In late 2003, the government adopted a new information and broadcasting policy that has yet to be fully implemented. Even though it includes provisions protecting press freedom, it fails to put an end to the registration requirement for newspapers and contains broad content restrictions.

Independent media outlets as well as the state-owned newspapers regularly criticize official policies, although the government occasionally pressures outlets to suppress unfavorable stories. On September 10, a photojournalist with the Sunday Citizen was beaten and injured by a group of prison wardens after covering an eviction that had been declared off-limits by the government. In the run-up to the 2005 elections, the major ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, was accused of using state-owned media to campaign for its candidates. Lack of access to government and public information is a major problem for the media.

The situation in Zanzibar remained more restrictive, particularly in the run-up to the 2005 elections. Journalists in Zanzibar must be licensed, and the state tightly controls the broadcast media. Locals can receive broadcasts and reports from the mainland. Zanzibar's first independent private newspaper, Dira, remains banned, and there are no private broadcasters on the island. There has been a slight improvement in terms of diversity of media outlets, including the licensing of 13 new publications in 2005. However, according to Assah Mwambene, a reporter for the state-owned Daily News, most of the newspapers serve as government mouthpieces. Reporters continue to face harassment at the hands of authorities. In June, a leading newspaper columnist, Jabir Idrissa, was banned from working in Zanzibar. He had written a series of columns criticizing the government for human rights violations and bad governance.

Economic liberalization has brought a wide variety of media outlets, including dozens of FM radio stations, 350 registered newspapers, and a dozen television stations. Only four radio stations have a national reach-state-run Radio Tanzania, as well as the privately owned Radio One, Radio Free Africa, and Radio Uhuru-and all are viewed as sympathetic to the ruling party. With most of the population unable to afford the 25 cents to buy a newspaper, radio remains the most popular means of mass communication. The government reportedly withholds advertising from critical newspapers and newspapers that report favorably on the opposition. Private firms that are keen to remain on good terms with the government allegedly follow suit, thus making it difficult for critical media outlets to remain financially sustainable. There are no reports of government restriction to the internet, though less than 1 percent of the population had the financial means to access it in 2005.