Tag Archives: media freedoms

Three (government) statistics that could be illegal under Tanzania’s new Statistics Act

Updated 11/4/15, with responses from the Big Results Now team and the Ministry of Water – see below.

Justin Sandefur of the Centre for Global Development (CGD), writing in the Washington Post, presented five charts that may soon be illegal in Tanzania. He was referring to the Statistics Act, recently passed by the Tanzanian parliament, which makes it a criminal offence to publish false statistics, or statistics “that may result in the distortion of facts.”. This is punishable by a minimum 10m/- ($6,000) fine and/or a minimum 3 year prison sentence.

Here, I have done something similar. But I only refer to statistics produced or cited by the Tanzanian government itself.

My purpose is not to accuse any particular part of the government of deliberately misleading people, but instead to point out some of the difficulties of making it an offence to publish false or distorting statistics. Continue reading

Access to Information bill to be fast-tracked through Tanzanian parliament

Tz map flag FOI

UPDATE, 28/3/15:

Following concerted lobbying by a coalition of media and civil society organisations, (including my employers, Twaweza), the government has dropped plans to fast-track the Access to Information and Media Services Bills. The bills may yet be presented to parliament in the current session for first reading, but the Attorney General, George Masaju, has promised that stakeholders will be given time to read and comment on the bill. 


 

Tanzania’s long-awaited Access to Information bill – promised by President Kikwete 18 months ago and included the current Open Government action plan – may be about to become a reality, though in far from ideal circumstances.

The Tanzanian government announced late last week that six bills*, including the Access to Information Bill, will be rushed through parliament over the next two weeks, under a “certificate of urgency” (hati ya dharura). This allows all three stages of the bill to be conducted in a single session: introducing the bill to the house (first reading), debate (second reading) and a vote (third reading).  Continue reading

Tanzania bans another newspaper

The Citizen, 27/01/15

The Citizen, 27/01/15

Once again, the Tanzanian government has banned a newspaper. In late 2013, Mtanzania was suspended for 90 days and Mwananchi for 14. In June 2012 it was MwanaHalisi, which remains suspended to this day. This time it is The East African, a highly respected regional paper.

The East African’s readership in Tanzania is low in numbers, but significant for who they are: the country’s business and political elites. It is seen as a thorough and dependable source of news on financial matters and regional politics in particular. It’s also part of the same media group (NMG/MCL) as two major and respected Tanzanian newspapers: The Citizen and Mwananchi.

We’re unlikely to see the outcry that followed suspension of Mwananchi in 2013. Most Tanzanians – even newspaper readers – won’t notice, with cabinet resignations and reshuffles dominating the news agenda. But it stands, once again, in stark contrast to the government’s stated commitment to open government and freedom of information.  Continue reading

Media freedom in Tanzania, in numbers

For World Press Freedom Day, (which is today), here are two charts drawing on global indexes of media freedom:

First, US-based Freedom House released their Freedom of the Press 2014 report this week. Here’s the data for East Africa, going back to 2010:

From Freedom House, lower scores are better

From Freedom House, lower scores mean more freedom

Continue reading

Chart(s) of the week #2: Freedom to speak in Tanzania

Two charts this week, and a video, all on freedom of speech issues in Tanzania. First up, a chart adapted from last year’s Afrobarometer round 5 data release, specifically the report on free speech and good governance (pdf).

freedom to speak Continue reading

A step backwards on the road to democracy

"In order that a paper is not closed down. Obama: we envy Tanzania's economy. Mafia declines aid. Tanzania supports Japan."

“To avoid closure, papers should write like this. Obama: we envy Tanzania’s economy. Mafia declines aid, they have no problems. Tanzania supports Japan.” From Mwananchi, October 2010.

Tanzania trades on its reputation as an “island of peace,” (relatively) well governed, (relatively) democratic, and (relatively) peaceful. It is getting harder and harder to justify that reputation.

On Saturday, two of Tanzania’s leading newspapers – Mwananchi and Mtanzania – were suspended from publication by the government (unofficial English translation), Mwananchi for 14 days and Mtanzania for 90.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental pillar of democracy, a cornerstone of good governance and accountability. Any restrictions on that freedom – which can in some cases be justified – should be handled with extreme caution and used only in the most extreme circumstances. These are not those circumstances. Continue reading

Unofficial translation: Government statement on the suspension of publication of Mwananchi and Mtanzania newspapers

This is an unofficial translation of the government statement published yesterday. It is not an official translation so you are strongly advised to check the original Swahili if you need to be precise. 

– – – – –

Government statement on the suspension of publication of Mwananchi and Mtanzania newspapers

28/9/2013

The government has suspended publication of MWANANCHI and MTANZANIA newspapers, from September 27 2013, in response to these papers’ practice of writing news and features that are inflammatory and hostile with the intention of causing citizens to lose confidence in state organs, and as such putting the country’s peace and cohesion in danger. Continue reading