Tanzania | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2013

2013 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, numerous other laws encourage self-censorship and limit the ability of the media to function effectively. Perhaps the most notorious and widely used of these laws is the 1976 Newspaper Registration Act, which empowers authorities to register or ban publications “in the interest of peace and good order.” In July 2012, the Information Ministry banned the Swahili-language weekly MwanaHalisi indefinitely on vague charges of sedition and false reporting for unspecified articles. The paper’s chief editor, Jabir Idrissa, said he suspected the publication was targeted for its coverage of a physicians’ strike and the abduction and torture of the protesters’ spokesperson, Steven Ulimboka. Reports from MwanaHalisi had suggested that authorities were involved in the attack on Ulimboka, but the government denied the allegations. The paper remained banned at year’s end. In 2011, state prosecutors had accused two journalists from Tanzania Daima, editor Absalom Kibanda and columnist Samson Mwigamba, of incitement for the publication of an article claiming that the government misused police for political purposes. In March 2012, authorities charged Theophil Makunga, the managing editor of Mwananchi Communications Limited, the company that prints Tanzania Daima, with “intent to excite disaffection” for the same article. All three cases remained pending at year’s end.

Among other restrictive laws, the National Security Act allows the government to take action against any piece of investigative journalism that touches on information it considers classified. Libel is a civil offense, and officials have used libel suits to weaken cash-strapped media houses. In 2011, a court ordered a local Swahili newspaper, RAI, to pay 15 million shillings ($9,500) in damages and publish apologies to former minister of good governance Wilson Masilingi for a column that accused him of soliciting funds from his voters to buy an apartment. Such fines can cripple media companies, which often operate on a tight budget; the average journalist’s salary has been estimated at between $58 and $72 per month. Nevertheless, most cases are settled out of court by arbitration or simply abandoned.

A number of laws, such as the Civil Service Act and the Public Leadership Code of Ethics Act, block access to information for journalists. 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 bill. Despite claims by Information Minister Fenella Mukangara that the Right to Information Bill would be moved through the parliament in 2012, it had not been introduced by the end of the year.

The 1993 Broadcasting Services Act provides for state regulation of electronic media and allows the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), a nominally independent agency, to close stations at will. There is concern that the TCRA is subject to government influence, as its board chairman and director general are both appointed by the president. Media advocacy groups are generally able to operate freely. In 1995, an independent self-regulatory body, the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), was established to help promote a more free and open media sphere. Since its inception, the MCT has helped to settle defamation lawsuits, worked toward preserving media freedom and journalistic ethics, and encouraged new media policies and legislation.

The brutal killing of television reporter Daudi Mwangosi in September 2012 marked the first work-related fatality of a journalist in Tanzania in the last 20 years. Mwangosi, a reporter for the private station Channel Ten and chairman of the local press club in Iringa, had confronted police officers over the arrest of another journalist during a demonstration by supporters of the opposition party Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA). Mwangosi was shot at point-blank range with a tear-gas canister and died at the scene. The authorities arrested a junior officer in connection with the killing, but they did not pursue at least six other officers thought to have been involved, according to the MCT.

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 now has a branch on the islands, new press clubs are operating, and an editors’ forum was created in 2009. However, the Zanzibar government largely controls the content of radio and television broadcasts, and it publishes the only daily paper, Zanzibar Leo. Zanzibar Wiki Hii is the 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. There are four private radio stations, although none are critical of the government; two are owned by ruling party supporters, and the others predominantly focus on religious issues. Residents can receive private broadcasts from the mainland, and opposition politicians have access to the state media outlets. In September 2012, Channel Ten reporter Munir Zakaria was attacked by a mob outside a party branch office of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) during a by-election in Zanzibar. The group beat him in his car and destroyed his equipment.

There are numerous media outlets in Tanzania as a whole, including dozens of daily and weekly newspapers. The government controls two daily newspapers, and the two main political parties own one each. According to the TCRA, there are 85 licensed radio stations and 26 licensed television stations, but only a small percentage of the population has access to television due to high costs. Private individuals and nongovernmental organizations are the main media owners, but control is concentrated in the hands of a few proprietors. Only five radio stations have a national reach—state-run Radio Tanzania and privately owned Radio One, Radio Free Africa, Radio Uhuru, and the youth-oriented Cloud FM—and all are viewed as sympathetic to the ruling party. Foreign media content is freely available. The government reportedly continues to withhold advertising from critical newspapers and websites, especially 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 problem is exacerbated by the influence advertisers have over editorial content and media houses’ dependence on advertising revenue.

Internet penetration in Tanzania has steadily increased over the past few years, with a usage rate of about 13 percent in 2012. The medium is not explicitly restricted, but there were reports during the year that officials monitored internet content or activity.