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Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Tanzania

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1998
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Tanzania, February 1998, available at: [accessed 22 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

After three decades of one-party rule, the introduction of pluralism into Tanzanian politics in the early 1990s resulted in the break up of the government's monopoly over the print and electronic media, producing an unprecedented proliferation of media outlets and the emergence of a lively free press. As state efforts to suppress the independent media have increased, however, the number of functioning newspapers has dwindled to 38 from more than a hundred earlier in the decade. There are myriad oppressive laws which authorities have used to clamp down on the media, harassing, detaining, and arresting journalists and banning publications. In the early part of 1997, the Association of Journalists and Media Workers began legal proceedings challenging the constitutionality of these laws in a bid to check the escalating harassment of the press.

Despite the existence of five television stations and eight new FM radio stations, the euphoria that greeted the liberalization of Tanzania's airwaves has turned to disappointment as broadcast stations offer pro-government programs with very little independent reporting or criticism. In addition, the broadcast range of television and FM radio is geographically confined to only 25 percent of the country. The government has been extremely selective in granting licenses, thereby limiting the expression of dissenting views.

After considerable opposition, the government deferred the enactment of legislation to regulate the standard of conduct and activities of the media. In October, journalists established the Media Council of Tanzania, which set up a voluntary code of ethics and intends to mediate disputes in a profession that has become, along with the rest of the country, increasingly vulnerable to corruption because of poor working conditions, low pay, and the lack of job security.

On the island of Zanzibar – which, although part of the United Republic of Tanzania since 1964, can pass legislation independent of the mainland – the Zanzibar Information Service announced the compulsory licensing of journalists at the beginning of the year. The information service said that journalists working without a license would be fined 500,000 TS (US$1,000) or sentenced to five years in jail. This is the first time that Zanzibar has enforced the licensing of journalists since the passage of the Newspapers Act in 1988.

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