The lifting of ban on four newspapers that had been barred from publishing since 2016 and 2017 for exposing alleged corruption and human rights violations is a positive step, but the Tanzanian authorities must do more to guarantee media freedom going forward, Amnesty International said today.
The four newspapers, Daima, Mawio, Mwanahalisi and Mseto, were banned from publishing for various offences under the restrictive Media Services Act, which came into force in November 2016, and the now repealed Newspaper Act.
“Over the past six years, being a journalist or running a media organization in Tanzania has come with a price. Numerous newspapers have been targeted and shut down for exposing cases of corruption and human rights violations,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“Now that the ban on these newspapers has been lifted, the Tanzanian authorities must immediately repeal the Media Services Act to ensure that independent media outlets can operate freely, and carry out their work without fear of reprisals. This is essential for the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”
The Tanzanian authorities have used the Media Services Act and the Newspaper Act to shut down, fine or suspend independent and critical media outlets for publishing or broadcasting allegations of corruption and human rights violations or reporting on general issues of governance.
On 10 August 2016, the state banned Mseto from publishing a week after it published an article implicating an assistant state minister in a corruption scandal. In 2017, Harrison Mwakyembe, the then Minister of Information, Culture and Sports banned four newspapers — Mawio, Mwanahalisi, Raia Mwema, and Tanzania Daima — for publishing stories on allegations of corruption.
While the government has reinstated Tanzania Daima’s licence at various times since it was first banned, Mseto, Mwanahalisi and Mawio have all been prohibited from publishing since their initial ban in 2016 and 2017.
On 23 June 2020, the Director of Information Services indefinitely banned the printing and distribution of Tanzania Daima both inside and outside the country. The order accused the newspaper of breaching the law and failing to uphold professional ethics, but did not cite specific laws or content. The newspaper was previously banned for 90 days in 2017 on allegations of publishing false information.
On 11 August 2021, the authorities suspended another newspaper, Uhuru, for fourteen days. They said it had published a false report claiming the president has no intention of running for office in the 2025 election.
On 5 September 2021, the Information Services Department suspended Raia Mwema for 30 days on allegations it repeatedly violated professional journalistic standards and broke the law by publishing “misleading” reports that amounted to “incitement of violence.”
Nape Nnauye, Tanzania’s Minister for Information, Communications and Information Technology, announced the lifting of the ban on the four newspapers on 10 February 2022 at a meeting with newspaper editors in Dar es Salaam.
On 6 April 2021, President Samia Suluhu Hassan instructed the authorities to allow media outlets banned under her predecessor ’s administration, John Magufuli, to resume operations.