As usual, the latest release of Afrobarometer 2014 data and analysis on Tanzania has some very interesting findings. For advocates of media freedoms, it doesn’t make for very comfortable reading. And in a context where newspapers can (and have been) closed down, and where there are new restraints on space for public debate, this matters.
First, two charts that show a decline in support in Tanzania for having an independent and critical media since previous surveys in 2008 and 2012:
However, though support for a critical and independent media may be declining, it is also important to note that it is still a clear majority in both cases.
The next chart shows how trustworthy Tanzanians believe the media to be. In fact, it’s pretty high, with two thirds of Tanzanians saying that the media rarely or never deliberately publish things that are untrue:
Lastly, a chart showing how effective people believe the media to be, specifically at uncovering wrongdoing:
The chart suggests that most people are fairly confident in the media’s ability to report on government mistakes and corruption, but that this has dropped slightly since 2012.
In all four charts, then, support for the media is strong, but declining. In none of the cases, however, are there clear reasons. A more detailed look at the data found little difference in views between urban and rural areas, women and men, young and old, educated and uneducated, or even between those who do or do not regularly read or listen to the news.
There’s a challenge here for the media and advocates of media freedoms. Can we win back support? Can we demonstrate to Tanzanians the benefits of an independent and critical media as a trustworthy and effective force for good?