The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today raised serious concerns about the deteriorating situation of press freedom in Tanzania, following the decision of the East African country to ban two widely-read newspapers.
According to independent sources and news reports, on 27 September the Tanzanian government took the decision to ban the Mwananchi (citizen in Kiswahili language) newspaper for 14 days and Mtanzania newspaper for 90 days. The decision was confirmed by the Information Services Director, Mr. Assah Mwambene.
"We are seriously worried by the Tanzanian government's decision. Banning a newspaper means preventing journalists from providing news to the public. This is a press freedom abuse which must not be taken for granted," said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa director. "The authorities in Tanzania must re-open the two newspapers and promote press freedom".
The official reason given for the decision is that the two newspapers were carrying stories "which were likely to force citizens to mistrust their government". According to the government, Mwananchi has published several stories based on official documents not to be released to the public, while Mtanzania has published stories focusing on violence.
The IFJ believes that journalists in Tanzania are mature enough not to promote unethical standards in their daily work. It has stated that there is nothing to prevent the government from engaging in discussions with journalists and media practitioners to develop a more efficient and responsible way of working. The truth is that the Tanzania government continues to repress the right to media freedom in the country at a time when other African countries are making great efforts to improve freedom of expression.
The IFJ has questioned the decision of the Tanzanian government and stated that these are not the actions of a country that is respectful of the rule of law. In July last year the weekly newspaper, MwanaHalisi was banned. No decision to reopen it has been yet taken. While In September 2012, Daudi Mwangosi, who worked for Channel Ten as a TV reporter, died after being struck by a tear gas canister as police dispersed a crowd at a rally staged by an opposition political party ,Chadema cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Party for Democracy and Progress). Until now there has been no justice for him and his family.
In December last year, Tanzanian police shot and wounded the journalist Shabani Matutu at his house in the capital city Dar-es-Salaam, and Issa Ngumba, a 45- year old radio journalist who worked for a community radio station Radio Kwizera in western Tanzania, was found dead on January 8 this year. He appeared to have been hanged by unknown assailants.
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FAJ represents more than 50.000 journalists in 40 countries in Africa