Tanzania | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


With few cases of extralegal intimidation of the press during the year, the media environment improved slightly in 2007. Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, several other laws limit the ability of the media to function effectively, and there are no explicit provisions for freedom of the press. 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. Despite these restrictive laws, journalists reported that they were typically able to operate freely. At the same time, criminal penalties imposed by libel legislation continue to intimidate journalists. There is no freedom of information law in place, though a draft bill was introduced in February 2007. In April 2007, the government also tabled the media services bill, which contains changes to defamation laws that would be more favorable to journalists and provisions on the protection of confidential sources. However, it also requires the licensing of all journalists by the Media Standards Board, members of which are appointed by the government. The bill had not been passed by year’s end.

Although reports of attacks against the media were rare, there was one case in 2007 when Minister of Information Omary Mapuki attacked a reporter who had written critically about him. However, in a positive sign, Mapuki was forced to resign from his position given the political outcry following the assault. The situation in Zanzibar remains more restrictive than in the rest of the country. Journalists in Zanzibar must be licensed and must obtain a permit prior to covering police activities. The state prohibits any independent radio or television broadcasts, although locals can receive private broadcasts from the mainland, and opposition politicians did have access to state media outlets. Zanzibar’s first independent private newspaper, Dira, remains banned, and in August, the government prevented a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) meet-the-listeners show from broadcasting from the island; the BBC program had earlier broadcast from a number of sites in mainland Tanzania.

There are numerous media outlets throughout Tanzania, including 47 FM radio stations, 537 registered newspapers, and a dozen television stations. Only four radio stations have a national reach—state-run Radio Tanzania and privately owned Radio One, Radio Free Africa, and Radio Uhuru—and all are viewed as sympathetic to the ruling party. The government reportedly continues to withhold advertising from critical newspapers and those that report favorably on the opposition, and taxes on the media remain high despite presidential campaign promises that they would be reduced. Private firms keen to remain on good terms with the government allegedly follow suit, thus making it difficult for critical media outlets to remain financially viable. Nonetheless, even though the government occasionally pressures outlets to suppress unfavorable stories, independent media outlets like Thisday and even some state-owned newspapers regularly criticize official policies. Although there were no explicit government restrictions on the internet, there were reports that government officials monitored internet content and activity. Only 1 percent of the population accessed the internet in 2007; however, a number of new internet cafés and internet service providers did open throughout the year.