The constitution provides for freedom of speech but does not explicitly provide for freedom of the press.
Freedom of Expression: Individuals could criticize the government both publicly and privately, but some persons expressed concern about doing so in public. In March police threatened former minister of information, culture, art, and sport Nape Nnauye with a firearm as he attempted to begin a press conference, forcing him to leave the venue (he was later able to address the press informally at a different location). Authorities used the Cybercrime Act to bring criminal charges against individuals who criticized the government in a variety of electronic media. In 2016 Isaac Abakuki was convicted of insulting the president on his Facebook page and sentenced to a fine of seven million Tanzanian Shillings (TZS) ($3,109) or three years in prison.
Press and Media Freedom: In 2016 the government revised the laws governing the media with the Media Services Act, and in February the government issued the Media Services Regulations implementing the act. The independent media on the mainland were active and generally expressed a wide variety of views, although media outlets often practiced self-censorship to avoid conflict with the government. The union Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts, and Sports reported there were 148 radio stations, 32 television stations, nine cable television providers, and six yearly, 230 monthly, 160 weekly, and 37 daily newspapers. In Zanzibar the government controlled the only local daily newspaper (mainland newspapers were available), one of 12 television stations, and three of the 25 radio stations.
Two mainland newspapers (Daily News and Habari Leo) were owned by the government, one (Uhuru) by the ruling Party of the Revolution (CCM), and another (Daima) by the chair of the Party of Democracy and Development (Chadema) opposition party. The remaining newspapers were independent, although close associates of political party members owned some of them. In July the government introduced new regulations implementing the 2016 Media Services Act that revised the requirements for registering print media. All print media were required to reregister under the new regulations by October 15. The new rules include a requirement that print media outlets provide curriculum vitae and technical certificates for all editors and journalists employed by the outlet. Newspaper registration was at the discretion of the registrar of newspapers at the information ministry on both the mainland and Zanzibar. Acquiring a broadcasting license from the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) took an estimated six months to one year, and the TCRA restricted the area of broadcast coverage. The TCRA imposes mandatory registration and annual fees for commercial and community radio stations. The fee structure disproportionately disadvantages the existence and creation of small community radio stations.
The Zanzibari government-owned daily newspaper had an estimated circulation of 25,000. There was one privately owned weekly newspaper with a much smaller circulation. The government of Zanzibar controlled content on the radio and television stations it owned. There were government restrictions on broadcasting in tribal languages; broadcasts in Kiswahili or English were officially preferred. The seven private radio stations on Zanzibar operated independently, often reading the content of national dailies, including articles critical of the Zanzibari government.
On the mainland the government generally did not restrict the publication of books. The publication of books on Zanzibar was uncommon.
Violence and Harassment: On September 7, opposition MP and president of the Tanganyika Law Society Tundu Lissu, a prominent critic of the government, was shot multiple times by unknown gunmen but survived what appeared to be an assassination attempt.
Law enforcement authorities and crowds attacked, harassed, and intimidated journalists during the year. In March the regional commissioner for Dar es Salaam entered the offices of Clouds TV with an armed police escort to insist the station broadcast a program he had provided.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law authorizes police to raid and seize materials from newspaper offices without a warrant and authorizes the minister of information to “prohibit or otherwise sanction the publication of any content that jeopardizes national security or public safety.”
A permit was required for reporting on police or prison activities, both on the mainland and in Zanzibar, and journalists needed special permission to cover meetings of the Tanzanian National Assembly or attend meetings in the Zanzibar House of Representatives. Anyone publishing information accusing a Zanzibari representative of involvement in illegal activities was liable to a fine of not less than 250,000 TZS ($115), three years’ imprisonment, or both. Nothing in the law specifies whether this penalty stands if the allegation is proven true. The government may fine and suspend newspapers without warning.
There were examples of the government repressing information, extending to online newspapers and journals. For example, in January the president warned that newspapers deemed to incite dissent would be closed. On June 15, the Kiswahili weekly newspaper Mawio was banned for two years by the minister of information, culture, arts, and sports using his discretionary power under the 2016 Media Services Act. The reason given for the ban was for defying a presidential order not to publish information relating to alleged involvement of past presidents with a controversy over mining concessions. As of November, three other newspapers had been issued bans of varying duration. The LHRC reported journalists from both private and public media were concerned about censorship of stories by editors fearful of criticizing government leaders or policies. The LHRC reported the government uses the Media Services Act to control content in both print and broadcast media.
Libel/Slander Laws: The law provides for arrest, prosecution, and punishment for the use of seditious, abusive, or derogatory language to describe the country’s leadership. The Media Services Act of 2016 makes defamation a criminal act. Defamation is defined as any matter likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by an injury to his reputation.
While the government did not restrict access to the internet, it monitored websites and internet traffic that criticized the government. According to the TCRA’s April-June report, 19.9 million persons (40 percent of the population) used the internet in 2016. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 10 percent of the population used the internet that year.
The Cybercrimes Act of 2015 criminalizes the publication of false information, defined as “information, data or facts presented in a picture, texts, symbol, or any other form in a computer system where such information, data, or fact is false, deceptive, misleading, or inaccurate.” Individuals who made critical comments about the government on electronic media were charged under the act, even when remarks reflected opinions or were factually true.
On February 21, four university students in Dar es Salaam were charged with defamation for distributing images of President Magufuli wearing a headscarf.
On August 24, a court began hearing a case against the founders of Jamii Forums, a popular online forum for political discussions. The charges involve obstructing justice by failing to reveal the identities of users who post details of suspected corrupt officials. Two other cases against the defendants on other charges are still pending.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.