June 17, 2024
Since President Magufuli took office in 2015, the government has cracked down on the media and civic space by passing and enforcing restrictive laws and threatening to cancel the registration of organizations critical of the government. The government has also placed restrictions on political opposition and given the registrar of political parties wide discretionary powers, including to cancel parties’ registration.

By Abdi Ali
Published April 17, 2020

Tanzania Ranked Among World's 10 Fastest Growing EconomiesA Kenyan television station has been forced to air an apology for being critical of what is widely seen as Tanzanian Government’s incoherent measures of countering the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in the East African country.

The Nairobi (Kenya)-based Citizen TV ran the apology to President John Pombe Magufuli Joseph on April 14 over a story it ran on March 22 titled Ukaidi wa Magufuli (Magufuli’s Stubbornness) which takes issue with Magufuli’s reluctance to enforce strict regulations to control the spread of COVID-19 in his country.

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Instead of restricting social interaction through measures like curfew or lockdown, the report says, Magufuli had announced that Tanzania would overcome COVID-19 through prayer and that he wouldn’t close the country’s border to avoid inflicting suffering on neighbouring countries that rely on Tanzania as they are landlocked.

“Citizen TV would like to clarify that these words Ukaidi wa Magufuli (Magufuli’s Defiance) were not used with the intention of misleading viewers on Magufuli’s stance or that of the Republic of Tanzania in the fight against the pandemic. As explained by Tanzanian Ambassador to Kenya, Pinda Chanda, in an interview with Citizen TV, President Magufuli has stood steadfast with the African Union and the East African Community in the fight against Covid 19. Therefore Citizen TV acknowledges that the words Ukaidi wa Magufuli (Magufuli’s Defiance) were not appropriate,” Citizen TV says in the apology that, we are told, is to run for one week otherwise the network signal is switched off in Tanzania.

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Tanzania had a marked decline in respect for free expression, association, and assembly since the election of John Pombe Magufuli as President in 2015.This comes at a time when the number of Tanzanians testing positive to COVID-19 are on the rise despite places of worship remaining open for believers to pray for divine intervention against the spread of Coronavirus. Some 53 new case were announced on April 17 as the country prepared for a weekend of prayers for the country. Those affected now number 147 and there is every possibility the figure shall hit the 200 mark in the coming few days unless effective counter measures, including closure of churches and mosques, are put in place.

Citizen TV is hardly the first, nor is it likely to be the last, media outlet to fall foul of Magufuli whose dictatorial tendencies have seen him close media houses, put journalists in jail and suspend newspapers amid criticism from human rights defenders.

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“Since 2015, the government has stepped up censorship by banning or suspending at least five newspapers for content deemed critical. These include Tanzania’s major English language daily newspaper, The Citizen, in 2019, and four others in 2017. The Zanzibar Broadcasting Commission shut down a radio station, Swahiba FM, in October 2015 because it reported on the annulment and subsequent rerun of the 2015 elections,” Human Rights Watch says.

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