Right groups Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have released two new reports warning about the shrinking space for freedom of expression in Tanzania.
They say new laws passed since President John Magufuli came into power in 2015 have repressed reporting and restricted the work of media, non-governmental organisation, and opposition groups.
The laws have led to the arrest of at least a dozen journalists and the closure, suspension or punitive fines for more than ten newspapers and radio stations on accusations ranging from publishing fake news to sedition.
“As President Magufuli marks four years in office next month, he must carefully reflect on his government’s record of ruthlessly disembowelling the country’s human rights framework,” said Roland Ebole, Amnesty International Tanzania researcher, at an event in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
“His government must repeal all oppressive laws being used to clamp down on dissent, and urgently end human rights violations and abuses,” he added.
The two organisations have urged the Tanzanian government to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against journalists and politicians who have been arrested “simply for exercising their rights to free expression and association”
That includes Eric Kabendera, a top investigative journalist who has written for many international media including the UK’s Guardian newspaper, who is facing charges of money laundering, tax evasion and leading a criminal organisation.
Cases like Mr Kabendera’s have sent chills across the industry with many journalists telling the BBC they are fearful of covering controversial stories for fear of retaliation.
Another prominent case is that of Azory Gwanda who disappeared in November 2017 while investigating a series of killings and disappearances in his community in the coastal district of Kibiti.
There has been little progress in opening an investigation despite pressure from rights groups.
“What we have seen in the last three years is a ratcheting up of the repression of the media using a variety of tools from restrictive legislation to problematic regulations… we’re very concerned about the environment in which Tanzanian journalists are operating currently,” Muthoki Mumo, the Sub Saharan Africa Representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said at the event held in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
Source :BBC Africa, Nairobi