Tanzania | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2011

2011 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)



Although the constitution of Tanzania provides for freedom of speech, several other laws limit the ability of the media to effectively function, and press freedom was tested in 2010 as a result of the October elections. The National Security Act allows the government to control the dissemination of information to the public, and publicly insulting the government is criminalized under the country’s libel legislation, which places the burden of proof on the defendant. The Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) settles many defamation suits, but arbitrary verdicts and excessive fines have continued, forcing media outlets to close in some cases. The private weekly MwanaHalisi, which had faced bankruptcy in 2009 after a court ordered it and two associated printing companies to pay approximately $2.2 million in damages, had the verdict overturned on appeal in 2010. Many public officials face legal restrictions on providing information to the media. Progress on enacting freedom of information legislation has been slow, with continued consultations on a draft held during 2010.

Authorities are empowered to register or ban newspapers under the 1976 Newspaper Registration Act “in the interest of peace and good order.” In 2009, the editor of MwanaHalisi,which had been closed in 2008, took the government to court, charging that the law was unconstitutional. The case was still pending at the end of 2010. In January 2010, two other newspapers were punished for allegedly violating journalism ethics: Leo Tena was shut down for publishing pornography, while the investigative weekly Kulikoni was suspended for 90 days because of a report about the army that allegedly compromised national security without first obtaining approval from the MCT. In October, the government threatened to either ban or deregister the MwanaHalisi and Mwananchi newspapers for publishing allegedly inciting material, although specific examples were not referenced. The threat was condemned by local press freedom watchdog groups. Separately, the minister of information suspended the registration of any new newspapers in the months preceding the October elections.

The 1993 Broadcasting Services Act provides for state regulation of electronic media and allows the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA), a nominally independent body, to shut stations at will. Radio station Saut FM was shuttered in August 2010 on dubious technical grounds. There is concern that the TCRA is not entirely independent because its board chairman and director general are both appointed by the president. Media freedom advocacy groups are generally able to operate freely.

Official pressure on the media rose prior to the October 2010 elections. For example, Sethi Kamuhanda, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Information, toured media offices and threatened to close outlets that portrayed the government in a bad light. In addition, a new law restricted access to information “regarding expenses to be incurred by political parties and their candidates,” making it more difficult for media outlets to subject campaign funding to public scrutiny. Although serious violence against members of the press is rare, there were reports of journalists being harassed throughout the year. Some journalists, particularly at outlets owned or controlled by the state, practice self-censorship.

Conditions in the semiautonomous Zanzibar archipelago 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 $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. In February 2010, Business Times journalist Heri Shaaban was threatened at a district court when he tried to photograph a soldier being charged for assault. In September, a journalist from the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation was beaten by a mob after it ended broadcasting of a speech by an opposition party candidate. In October, reporter Frederick Katulanda was beaten by ruling party supporters.

There are numerous media outlets throughout Tanzania, including dozens of daily and weekly newspapers, more than 50 radio stations, and 15 television stations. Media ownership, albeit transparent, is concentrated in the hands of a few proprietors. 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. However, in recent years the public broadcaster has reportedly demonstrated more balanced views, according to the 2010 African Media Barometer. Foreign media content is freely available, but only 5 percent of the population has access to television due to high costs. 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. The influence advertising clients have over editorial content and media houses’ dependence on advertising revenue exacerbate this problem.

Only 11 percent of the population accessed the internet in 2010. Although there were no explicit government restrictions on the medium, there were reports that officials monitored internet content and activity.