Dar es Salaam — Tanzania has dropped by 25 positions in the latest World Press Freedom Index Report.
The report, which was published on April 18 by Reporters without Borders (RSF), places Tanzania in the 118th position out of 180 countries they studied. It occupied the 93rd place in 2018.
However, commenting on the report, the Tanzania Information Services director, Dr Hassan Abbasi, told The Citizen's sister paper Mwananchi that the government was not surprised by the ranking. "You can't come up with such a report by merely looking at incidents taking place in the society or by considering the arrest of members ofCommittee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) who entered the country illegally," he said.
He said Tanzania will continue respecting the freedom of the press because it is enshrined in the country's constitution, laws and ratified international treaties.
"We will do this regardless of perceptions of various reports on us because this is a constitutional obligation. Whenever media practitioners contravene our laws we will take action according to the law," he said.
The index report shows that Tanzania scored 3,628 marks and a difference of 5.63 scores as compared to 2018.
Regionally, Tanzania sits second behind Kenya, which dropped by four points and now holds the 100th position.
Other East African Community (EAC) member states and their respective positions in bracket are; Uganda (125), South Sudan (139), Rwanda (155) and Burundi (159).
Globally, the U.S, Venezuela, Brazil, Iran and China have their positions declined, but China holds 177th position among 180 countries examined.
The Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) Executive Secretary Kajubi Mukajanga told The Citizen that for three consecutive years, Tanzania has been declining in the index.
According to him, the country dropped by 12 positions in 2017, 10 spots in 2017 before the staggering fall by 25 places in 2018.
"This can be attributed to the unprecedented suppression of media freedom that includes banning and fining media houses. Also, seeking editor's clarifications published and broadcasted contents and disappearance of media practitioners," he said in a telephone interview.
He outlined another cause for the declining performance as the country's enactment of draconian laws that include the Media Services Act 2016, the Statistics Act and the Online Content Regulations that have discouraged investigative reporting to a large extent.
"It is not about the number of media houses as what the minister (Information minister Harrison Mwakyembe) had told the parliament. It is all about independence of the press, pluralism, diversity and freedom of the public to air their opinions, especially how they are governed," he said.
The index is published annually since 2002 and has become an important tool among countries across the world.
It is considered as a point of reference among diplomats and international entities such as the United Nations and the World Bank on the world's freedom of the press.
When reached for comment, Information Minister Dr Harrison Mwakeymbe asked for more time to read it.
"Let me pass through report first because I can't use your interpretation to issue my comments. Doing so is like commenting on the hearsay something which is legally unacceptable," he said in a telephone interview.