Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Although Tanzania has held five consecutive multiparty elections since its transition from a one-party state in the early 1990s, the presence of formal opposition remains limited within the government, and the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), has retained power for over half a century. Civil liberties concerns include government limitations on freedom of expression as well as recent legislation and official rhetoric that have had a chilling effect on civil society.

Key Developments in 2016: 
  • A number of moves by the authorities threatened the exercise of civil liberties, including an indefinite ban on public assemblies, implemented in June, and the halting of public broadcasts of parliamentary sessions, implemented in April.
  • Zanzibar held elections in March, following an annulment of its 2015 polls; the opposition boycotted the vote, allowing the CCM to win the presidency and every legislative seat.
  • Authorities used the controversial 2015 Cybercrimes Act to prosecute critics of the ruling party.
  • The president signed another piece of restrictive legislation, the Media Services Bill, in November, raising concerns from watchdogs about expanded government powers to curb freedom of expression. 
Executive Summary: 

The aftermath of Tanzania’s 2015 national elections, which were the country’s most competitive to date but also featured controversy, drove political developments in early 2016. The elections in the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar had been annulled before the official announcement of the results, and a second vote was held in March 2016. The opposition formally boycotted the elections, as the Civic United Front (CUF) claimed that the 2015 elections had been voided because it appeared to be winning. The lead-up to the vote was tense, with episodes of violence against opposition members and journalists as well as a heightened military presence. The CCM easily won every seat in the legislature and took the presidency, resulting in the dissolution of a power-sharing government that had been formed in 2010 and allocated executive positions to both major parties. Although Tanzania’s opposition had successfully organized a coalition for the 2015 elections, it showed weakness and fragmentation in 2016. Following signs of infighting, the chairman of the CUF was expelled in September.

There was a significant crackdown on civil liberties during the year. The Cybercrimes Act, rushed through the legislature in 2015, was used against critics of the regime on a number of occasions. The law gives the government significant leeway to arrest anyone for publishing information deemed false, deceptive, misleading, or inaccurate and to levy heavy penalties against individuals involved in a host of criminalized cyberactivities. Under this law, one man was convicted in June of calling President Magufuli an “imbecile” on Facebook. The Media Services Bill, signed into law in November, raised alarm in the media community, with critics noting that it could constrain the types of stories published by journalists. In April, the Information Ministry announced that broadcasts of parliamentary sessions would cease, a move that significantly undermined the public’s ability to access official information. Separately, in June, the government imposed a ban on all public demonstrations and rallies, curtailing individuals’ right to exercise freedom of assembly. 

Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 
Political Rights: 
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