“Bulldozing” the media
Tanzania has become increasingly authoritarian since John Magufuli’s election as president in 2015. None of the 180 countries ranked in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index has suffered such a precipitous decline in recent years. Nicknamed the “Bulldozer,” Magufuli tolerates no criticism of himself or his policies. Erick Kabendera, an investigative reporter, paid a high price for his articles criticizing the economy, the government and corruption, spending a total of seven months in prison following his arrest in July 2019. The charges brought against him changed three times, with one hearing after another being held without any examination of the substance of the case against him because the prosecution kept on requesting more time for further investigation. The justice system’s inability to stand up to the prosecutors sent a chilling message to journalists – that nothing protects them against the executive any more in Tanzania.
Three web TVs and a leading daily newspaper were the victims of arbitrary closures in 2019. By closing a total of 15 media outlets in the past four years and by constantly threatening to withhold state advertising from privately-owned media, the government has imposed a climate of fear in which self-censorship is growing. In 2017, the president openly defended a governor who had stormed into a privately-owned radio station accompanied by policemen and forced it to broadcast a recording incriminating one of his opponents. Online information has also been reined in since the adoption of a draconian law under which websites and blogs have to pay exorbitant fees to register and get accreditation. Two press freedom defenders were arrested and expelled at the end of 2018. One of the cases they were working on was that of Azory Gwanda, a Tanzanian journalist who went missing in November 2017 while investigating the murders of local officials. The Tanzanian authorities displayed absolutely no concern about Gwanda’s disappearance. The foreign minister referred to him as “dead” at one point in 2019, but backtracked shortly thereafter.
118 in 2019
36.28 in 2019