Dar es Salaam — Tanzania's media landscape remained challenging in 2017, a new survey shows, citing threats and harassment of journalists as vivid examples of how freedom of expression was violated throughout the year.
Tanzania's Human Rights Report 2017, produced by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), said bans on media outlets and application of restrictive laws relating to freedom of expression - including the Media Services Act of 2016 - made 2017 one of the worst years for the media fraternity in Tanzania.
According to the report, several incidents of threats and harassment of journalists were reported in 2017, including a raid on Clouds Media by Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda, as well as threats and arbitrary arrests of 10 journalists under the orders of a district commissioner in Arusha Region.
"Four newspapers were banned and fined because of various reasons," a human rights researcher, Mr Fundikila Wazambi, said as he unveiled the report in Dar es Salaam yesterday.
He said the right to information was put at risk through suppression of the freedom of the press in giving opinion, citing how some television stations were fined for airing news about LHRC's council by-election assessment report.
In the same vein, a journalist affiliated with Mwananchi Communications Limited, Azory Gwanda, has been missing for over 100 days since some unknown people took him away from his residence in Kibiti, Coast Region, on Novemner 25, 2017.
The future of the media landscape in Tanzania, according to the LHRC, remains bleak, mostly due to the Electronic and Postal Communications Regulations 2018 which make it mandatory for bloggers and owners of other online forums, such as Youtube TV channels, to register with the government and submit to strict regulations.
On the right to life, the report noted that at least 917 people were killed last year in Tanzania in incidents related to angry mobs taking the law into their own hands.
In 2016, the number of people killed by angry mobs stood at 912, according to the report.
At least 479 killing incidents by angry mobs taking the law into their own hands were reported to the police during the period, with Dar es Salaam, Mbeya, Mara, Geita, Tanga and Kigoma regions, leading in that order.
"Lack of confidence in justice and security organs, including the police and judiciary due to graft, is one of the reasons why people keep taking the law into their own hands," he says, adding that almost 19 people are killed every day due to superstitious beliefs.
The report recommends that the ministry of Home Affairs - through the Police Force - should ensure that people involved in mob violence and law enforcement officers implicated in extrajudicial killings are apprehended and brought to justice.