Incidents of press freedom violations on the rise: Media Council of Tanzania

Journalist at work. PHOTO | SALIM SHAO

What you need to know:

New report says increasing violation of press freedom has caused excessive self-sencorship among the media.

Dar es Salaam. Incidents of violations of press freedom including threats and editorial independence have increased in Tanzania from eight in 2015 to 28 cases in 2019, according to a new report by the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT).

MCT says there is enough evidence indicating that the media in Tanzania face various violations while performing their professional duties, with many go unreported because individuals affected have no trust in law enforcement agencies.

The council formed an investigative mission to inquire on claims of violations of press freedom allegedly by unknown people, some state and non-state actors. The oversight body said it has been receiving information from its members and various partners about serious allegations of violations of press freedom allegedly perpetrated by unknown people. MCT also investigated claims from partners over presence of serious violations of press freedom by government authorities, state organs, self-styled activist and non-state actors.

“There are a number of factors leading to the current state of fear in Tanzania, some of the factors results from unfriendly legal framework and the incumbent political administration, while others are attributed to misconduct among media professionals,” read part of the summary of the report.

According to report, the country recorded eight incidents in 2015, 32 instances in 2016, 23 cases in 2017, 18 events in 2018 and 28 happenings in 2019.

“The number of abuses is higher than those recorded because incidences which haven’t been verified are not included in the Press Freedom Violation Register (PFVR),” argued an MCT official during the interview.

According to the report, the Media Services Act, 2016, Cyber Crime Act, 2015, and Online Content Regulations, 2018 were among the laws and regulations used to bless the noted violations.

Professionals blamed

Report also blamed media practitioners for unprofessional conducts, saying most of them have been committing many professional flaws.

Fading boldness

The forms of press freedom violations have affected the media in many ways including excessive self-sensorship with the situation considered tense among individual journalists and media owners, according to report.

“The situation has also led to decline of boldness embedded in investigative journalism with the media, bloggers, researchers and online users fearing to report political and human rights issues amid increased level of media polarization,” says the report.

Threats in may forms

Report says threats came in the form of telephone calls, statements from some government officials and law enforcement agents issued verbally or via social media, repeated summon and questioning of journalists and editors over published and uploaded contents.

Other threats are delivered through friends and colleagues, spying on conversations, arbitrary arrests, prosecution, assault, insults, false accusations, publishing photos and names of journalists who are then labeling as traitors and puppets.

According to report, threats are also issued through hate and defamatory messages via publications and social media accounts.

Disappearance of Mwananchi Communications Limited (MCL) journalist, Azory Gwanda was cited as example of threats that intended to silence the media with respondents differing whether enough have been done to unveil the truth of what had happened.

Report says, some respondents questioned whether the media has investigated the matter to find out what happened to Mr Azory, while others said it was government’s responsibility to investigate.