Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
- Press freedom in Tanzania suffered some setbacks in 2009, including the arbitrary arrest of several journalists and increased attacks on the media.
- 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 or ban newspapers under the Newspaper Registration Act “in the interest of peace and good order.” 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.
- Publicly insulting the government is criminalized under the country’s libel legislation, which places the burden of proof on the defendant. A purportedly independent Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) settles defamation suits, but arbitrary verdicts and excessive fines have continued, forcing media outlets to close in some cases. In 2009, MwanaHalisi newspaper faced bankruptcy after a court in May ordered it and two associated printing companies to pay approximately US$2.2 million for a 2008 article alleging that lawmaker Rostam Aziz had been involved in a corrupt electricity deal. In a court ruling in August, the editor and owner of the newspaper Changamoto were ordered to pay US$1 million to Reginald Mengi, a Tanzanian media mogul, for defamation. The paper was also instructed to publish a retraction and an apology in multiple issues.
- While a 2005 amendment to the constitution provides for the right to be informed, only information that reflects positively on the government is freely available to the public.
- Although the president has expressed support for media freedom, the judiciary and the parliament have shown a lack of independence on media issues. For instance, in February 2009 the speaker of the National Assembly warned members to stay away from reporters and use caution when travelling with them. In addition, the Ministry of Information acknowledged that it called four editors into its offices during the year for allegedly distorting government statements, criticizing the president without offering supporting evidence, and printing misinformation about a parliamentary debate. No further action was taken against the editors. Freelance journalist Jumbe Ismailly was interrogated by police in November and accused of defaming a regional politician. He was released hours later and told that he was part of an ongoing investigation.
- There were reports of journalists being attacked throughout the year. In December, five assailants attacked Frederick Katulanda, a reporter with Mwananchi Communications, in his home in Mwanza. The attack was motivated by his investigation into funds that were allegedly embezzled from a government account. The suspects pressured Katulanda to turn over all documents related to his reporting on the issue. The police were investigating the case at year’s end. Separately, a journalist working for the British Broadcasting Corporation was forced to go into hiding in May, having received death threats after reporting on the role of witch-doctors in persecuting albinos.
- Newspapers have been closed by the government on occasion. MwanaHalisi was banned for three months in October 2008 for publishing articles that allegedly defamed the president. In June 2009, the paper’s editor took the government to court, charging that the suspension was unconstitutional. MwanaHalisi has called on the government to repeal the Newspaper Act of 1976, which was invoked to impose the ban. The case was still pending at year’s end.
- Conditions in semiautonomous Zanzibar remain more restrictive than on the mainland. There are indications that the Zanzibar government is interested in reform, as the MCT has a branch on the islands, new press clubs are operating, and an editors’ forum was created in 2009. However, Zanzibar officials continue to monitor the content of both public and private radio and television broadcasts.
- Zanzibar Wiki Hii is the region’s only private weekly, though it generally avoids critical coverage of the leadership, as implicating Zanzibar lawmakers in criminal activities can result in a minimum fine of approximately US$200 or three years’ imprisonment. The government publishes the region’s only daily paper, Zanzibar Leo. Television Zanzibar is under government control, as is the radio station Sauti ya Tanzania-Zanzibar. Small private radio stations and newspapers often have close connections to ruling party politicians. Residents can receive private broadcasts from the mainland, and opposition politicians have access to the state media outlets. Journalists must be licensed and obtain permits to cover developments related to police work and the prison system.
- There were reports of Zanzibar journalists being harassed and threatened. For example, in October 2009 journalist Mwinyi Sadala was arrested while investigating a cholera outbreak in Karakana. The police seized his camera and erased all the photographs before returning it, and the case against him was later withdrawn.
- 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 favor the opposition. Private firms that are keen to remain on good terms with the government allegedly follow suit, making it difficult for critical media outlets to remain financially viable.
- Although there were no explicit government restrictions on the internet, there were reports that officials monitored internet content and activity. During the year the government shut down one blog for posting a doctored photo of the president. Only 1.5 percent of the population accessed the internet in 2009.