Tag Archives: media

Another Tanzanian newspaper is suspended. This time, by its own management

“Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.”

Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University and author of “On Tyranny, twenty lessons from the twentieth century

Nipashe Jumapili, a Sunday newspaper owned by media tycoon Reginald Mengi, has been suspended from publication for three months. This makes the paper the fifth to be suspended since President Magufuli came into office in November 2015, after Mawio, RaiaMwema, MwanaHalisi and Tanzania Daima. What makes this case different, however, is that the paper was not suspended by the government’s Information Services Department, but by its own management.

The paper announced the decision on Sunday afternoon, explaining that an article published in the paper that very morning had fallen short of their own standards, that it had put at risk the good relations that exist between Tanzania and Rwanda. They also offered personal apologies to Presidents John Magufuli of Tanzania and Paul Kagame of Rwanda for having published the article.

Nipashe Jumapili, 14/1/2018: “JPM akerwa wanaomtaka adumu urais kama Kagame”

The government issued a statement welcoming the paper’s decision. It came with a clear message to the Tanzanian press: “We must remind ourselves, journalism is more than a business, it is a profession, and so you have a major responsibility to respect journalistic ethics and accountability.”

The paper’s offending article discusses President Magufuli’s reaction to calls for him to stay in office beyond two five-year terms. The President recently dismissed such suggestions as unconstitutional, which was widely covered in the Tanzanian media.

“JPM akerwa wanaomtaka adumu urais kama Kagame,” ran the headline: Magufuli disappointed by those who want him to stay in office like Kagame. The article ends with a description of changes made to term limit laws in Rwanda and Burundi in recent years. With Kagame visiting Tanzania right now, there is some sensitivity in the timing: drawing attention to the difference between Tanzania and Rwanda’s positions might embarrass one or both presidents.

Since it has come up, lets indulge in a brief digression on term limits – a topic which for many years has been beyond discussion in Tanzania. Each time an incumbent president reached the end of their second term, the international press would express first doubt, then surprise, then praise when the outgoing president made no attempt to change the rules or block the handover to their successor. Tanzanians would only shrug: it simply wasn’t an issue. Unlike in Rwanda.

There are signs that this is no longer the case. CCM politicians and other have made several calls for changes in recent months, which the President has dismissed. In most cases, the suggestion is that the length of the presidential term could be increased from 5-7 years. But some are also asking whether the President might be looking for a way to stay in office beyond two terms. Answers are often uncertain.

Lets get back, though, to the main issue at hand – Nipashe Jumapili’s self-imposed suspension. Self-censorship has always been part of the media. All over the world, editors and their advisors make daily decisions about what they should or should not print. Sometimes, whether for legal or political reasons or something else entirely, they decide it’s not worth the risk.

But too much self-censorship becomes a cause for concern. When editors are fearful, important stories never see the light of day, and democracy recedes a little further into the darkness. 

And has there ever been such a extensive and transparent act of self-censorship as suspending your own newspaper for three months?

Nipashe, 15/1/18

The Monday issue of Nipashe – the suspended paper’s weekday sister paper – has two prominent stories on its front page. The first – “Kumradhi Rais Magufuli, Paul Kagame wa Rwanda” – addresses the matter directly: Asking forgiveness from President Magufuli, Paul Kagame of Rwanda. The second is hardly any more subtle: “Neema tano ziara Kagame Tanzania” – Five good things from Kagame’s visit to Tanzania.

It brings to mind a medieval court, where a courtier finds they have inadvertently insulted the King. Rather than wait for the King to have their head removed, the courtier rushes to prove their remorse by subjecting themself to brutal punishment, hoping to earn the King’s mercy.

The suspension may have been decided by the media house’s own management in an extreme case of anticipatory obedience. Or it may have been “negotiated” by a grovelling editor or proprietor, hoping to escape a longer or more comprehensive punishment. Sunday papers make little money and have little influence in Tanzania: the weekday version is what matters.

Might it be possible that this shouldn’t be considered a case of self-censorship at all?

Yesterday was Access to Information Day 2017. Meanwhile, in Tanzania …

Mwananchi, 29/9/17

As we marked Access to Information Day, 2017 …

… the communications regulator – TCRA – held a consultation on proposed new online content regulations. Among other things, the regulations would require all bloggers and online forums to register with TCRA, to identify any readers or users who post comments or other content, and to pre-moderate all user-submitted content. The implications for blogs and other platforms for public debate and whistle-blowing, including the hugely popular Jamii Forums, would be devastating. Continue reading

“Acacia surrender”: Tz newspaper coverage of mineral concentrates saga

Nipashe 15/6/17

On Wednesday, the President of Tanzania, John Magufuli, met with the Chairman of Barrick Gold, John Thornton, who had flown in from North America for the purpose. The State House communications team released a video, shot on the steps outside the meeting, in which the President and Mr Thornton shared their versions of what had transpired. This dominated the headlines on Thursday, with most papers presenting the meeting in a very particular way.

More on that in a moment, but first, here’s the video: Continue reading

Wapo! The song that got rapper Nay wa Mitego locked up – A rough translation

Nay wa Mitego, on release from police custody

Tanzanian rapper, Nay wa Mitego was locked up on Sunday, for a song. He was released on Monday, after the intervention of President Magufuli and the new Minister of Information, Harrison Mwakyembe, and permission was given for the song to be played.

The President also offered some advice to revise the lyrics, and an invitation to meet and discuss how the song could be “improved”.

The BBC has more details, and this background context is also significant.

Here’s my rough translation, compiled with some assistance from others better qualified than myself. A word of warning though: much of the Swahili in the song is not to be found in any dictionary, so our translations and interpretations are open to challenge – I will happily make corrections if you point them out. And apologies that my translation has lost most of the (considerable) poetry of the original.

Wapo! (There are!), by Nay wa Mitego

What you plant today is what you will reap tomorrow
It’s been written that men must earn through sweat
I ask now who has seen tomorrow
Get moving and if you sleep you have nothing Continue reading

“Be careful, watch it!” – Translated excepts from speech of President Magufuli

Earlier today (March 24, 2017), President Magufuli spoke at a ceremony in to formally appoint new Ministers and Ambassadors. He referred directly to two significant events earlier this week, the visit of World Bank President Jim Kim (see also this sharp-eyed post by Aikande Kwayu) and yesterday’s events in the car park of St Peters Catholic Church in Dar es Salaam. Among other things, the President had some interesting things to say about the media in Tanzania.

I have translated some key excerpts below the video.

Continue reading

When security forces draw weapons on a politician, something has gone very wrong

from mwananchi.co.tz

A gun was pulled on Nape Nnauye today, in broad daylight in a car park full of journalists in Dar es Salaam, reportedly by a security officer. They were apparently trying to prevent him from speaking to reporters, trying to arrest him, or perhaps both.

Just this morning, Nape had been the Minister of Information, Culture, Arts and Sport, until President Magufuli added his name to a long and growing list of public officials fired by the President and his senior colleagues.

In the official letter announcing the “reshuffle” (see right), no reason was given. Indeed, Nape is not even mentioned in the letter, which merely announced the appointment of a new Minister. But no explanation was needed, this story has had Tanzania’s media and public gripped for several weeks.

Nevertheless, it’s worth going back a little, to recount how we reached this point. You could not make it up. Continue reading

Dear Chambi: don’t stop blogging, your voice is needed

from Nipashe, Dec 1, 2016

Dear Chambi,

I hope you don’t mind me writing you a public letter like this. But it feels like the most appropriate way of saying what I want to say.

Because your decision to stop blogging has left me dejected. While I don’t always agree with what you say (I usually do), yours has been one of very few voices asking important but difficult questions. Those who find #UhuruWaKujieleza (freedom of speech) to be an annoyance (or, if we are charitable, an unaffordable luxury,) will be celebrating. We are all worse off as a result. Continue reading