Tanzania going backwards on freedom of expression

In Summary

• General and presidential elections are being held in October in Tanzania

• Opposition politicians are being arrested and attacked and critical media houses closed down

Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete with his successor John Magufuli.
Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete with his successor John Magufuli.
Image: FILE

Tanzania opposition politician Zitto Kabwe was arrested yesterday while government revoked the licence of opposition newspaper Tanzania Daima.

Last week Chadema party leader Freeman Mbowe was attacked going home in Dodoma. Other media houses are being closed and journalists arrested or suspended. Political rallies are banned but CCM officials are still campaigning.

Tanzania is holding elections in October. This is the wrong time to be stifling debate and freedom of association.

Kabwe's issue is not failing to distance during the Covid-19 crisis. Magufuli himself claims that the coronavirus has been eradicated in Tanzania. In fact one newspaper was suspended in April for implying in photos and stories that Magufuli was not practising social distancing.

Unfortunately the Tanzanian government is becoming increasingly intolerant of the media and the opposition. It is reversing the progress in freedom of expression made under Presidents Mwinyi, Mkapa, and Kikwete.

While this might seem justified and necessary to Magufuli today, he should remember that the precedent he sets will carry forward into the future. One day he might find that it is the views of his own supporters that are subject to censorship.

Quote of the day: "Prison is a recruitment centre for the army of crime".

Michel Foucault
TheFrench philosopher died on June 25, 1984