World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


WAN-IFRA Board Press Freedom Resolution - Tanzania, June 2017

WAN-IFRA Board Press Freedom Resolution - Tanzania, June 2017

Article ID:

20956

The Board of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), meeting in Durban, South Africa on 7th June 2017, calls for renewed global solidarity with the Tanzanian press in the wake of attacks and the hardening government stance against independent, free media.

The Board of WAN-IFRA denounces a systematic campaign by the Tanzanian government to attack and intimidate the press as a means of silencing criticism and marginalising opposition voices. The Board notes the on-going assault since President John Magufuli took office in October 2015, after which new and existing legislation has been used to target journalists, and recognizes with increasing alarm the government’s chilling endorsements of attacks against the press.

The Board of WAN-IFRA regrets to acknowledge the adoption of the Media Services Act of 2016, which abolished self regulation of the media, replacing it with a government controlled body holding broad censorship powers, including defining prison terms, fines, and the right to ban outlets for critical content. The Media Services Act of 2016 builds on repressive laws passed before President Magufuli took office, notably the Cybercrime Act and Statistics Act of 2015, as well as the long standing Newspaper Act of 1976. The Board is dismayed to find that the current government has emboldened rather than curbed Tanzania’s censorious legislation.

The Board was outraged by the storming of Clouds Media Group studios by Dar es Salaam regional commissioner, Paul Makonda, and armed police officers in March 2017 with the intent of using the station to air content in service of the commissioner. It further notes with grave concern the firing of Information Minister, Nape Nnauye, after he launched an investigation into this incident. The use of physical force against the media, combined with the chilling effect of the Minister’s firing, is inconsistent with basic principles of press freedom and accountability. The Board denounces the use of security services to attack editorial independence.

The Board of WAN-IFRA supports Tanzanian editor and publisher Maxence Melo Mubyazi, founder of www.jamiiforums.com and www.FikraPevu.com, in his legal struggle against three charges, which exemplify aggressive use of the Cybercrimes Act of 2015 and Electronic and Postal Communications Act of 2010 against critical voices. The Board notes with concern the raiding of Jamii Forums’ office and arrest of Melo in December 2016, as well as the on-going efforts by police to force Melo to release the names of online users. The ability for journalists to conduct their work online without fear of reprisal, as well as internet freedom more broadly, is central for the press to operate freely and for public access to information.

The Board acknowledges the remaining opportunity for President Magufuli’s government to improve Tanzania’s media freedom conditions, but remains concerned about the example set by the last nearly two years of government behaviour, including the closure of two radio stations - Radio Five and Magic FM - in August 2016, as well as the Mawio newspaper in January 2016. It also notes with dismay threats by President Magufuli to shut down media houses for “inflammatory” reporting, rather than focusing on development issues. The trend is not befitting of international expectations for the Tanzanian government.

The Board of WAN-IFRA reminds Tanzania of its obligations as a signatory to international conventions regarding freedom of expression, and it unequivocally calls on Tanzania’s international partners to do more to pressure President Magufuli’s government into guaranteeing an environment that better protects media freedom and the independence of journalists.

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2017-06-02 00:18

Contact information

In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...