“Bulldozing” the media
“Bulldozing” the media
President John Magufuli’s sudden death in March 2021, a few months after his reelection for a second term, left journalists in a state of uncertainty. Since becoming president in 2015, the man nicknamed the “Bulldozer” had become increasingly authoritarian, tolerating no criticism of himself or his policies. Erick Kabendera, an investigative reporter, paid a high price for his articles criticising the economy, the government and corruption, spending a total of seven months in prison after his arrest in July 2019. The court’s inability to stand up to the prosecutors, who changed the charges three times, sent a chilling message to journalists. The authorities displayed absolutely no concern about Azory Gwanda, a Tanzanian journalist who went missing in November 2017 while investigating the murders of local officials in a coastal region. The foreign minister referred to him as “dead” at one point in 2019, but backtracked shortly thereafter. Several months before that, the authorities expelled two international press freedom defenders who had been investigating his disappearance. Nothing protects the media and journalists against the executive any more in Tanzania. The media continue to be exposed to arbitrary suspensions, of which there have been around 20 since 2015. Media outlets that fail to toe the government line quickly find themselves deprived of state advertising. The coronavirus crisis has fed the climate of fear and encouraged even more self-censorship. President Magufuli minimised the pandemic or even denied its reality, no caseload figures have been issued since April 2020 and several journalists and media outlets have been suspended after criticising the government’s management of the crisis. The adoption of increasingly restrictive laws and regulations are also used in the war against independently reported news. New ones in 2020 banned publishing information about a “deadly or contagious disease” that had not been approved by the authorities, and reproducing content from foreign media without prior permission.
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124in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index
124 in 2020
40.25 in 2020