a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media
The constitution provides for freedom of speech but does not explicitly provide for freedom of expression for members of the press and other media. There were criminal penalties for libel, and authorities used these laws to stifle freedom of expression. The rights of free expression were further severely limited through several formal (legislative, regulatory) and informal (executive, government, and police statements) actions. These include laws that give the government the authority to shut down media outlets.
Freedom of Expression: Public criticism of the government resulted in punitive action in some cases. Authorities used the Cybercrimes Act to bring criminal charges against individuals who criticized the government on a variety of electronic media.
On March 14, the Iringa Regional Police Force arrested Tito Augustino Kiliwa, a resident of Mufindi District, for posting on Facebook that former president John Magufuli was ill. Acting Regional Police Commander Rienada Millanzi alleged the message evoked emotions and caused a stir in the community. The arrest followed the March arrests of Peter Pius Silayo, Melchiory Prosper Shayo, and Charles Majura for allegedly spreading online fabricated information related to President Magufuli’s health, thereby violating the law. The government announced that the president had died on March 17.
Members of parliament (MPs) were sanctioned for criticizing the government, including in speeches on the floor of parliament. On August 21, Speaker of the Parliament Job Ndugai ordered Bishop Josephat Gwajima, a Chama Cha Mapinduzi party (CCM) MP representing Kawe constituency in Dar es Salaam, to appear before the Privileges, Ethics, and Powers Committee on August 23 for allegedly degrading the dignity of the parliament. Gwajima was accused of making anti-COVID-19 vaccination remarks in his church in Dar es Salaam. Gwajima also allegedly claimed government officials had been bribed to allow vaccines into the country. Parliament suspended Gwajima from attending the September and November parliamentary sessions and cut his salary in half.
On September 16, Minister of Home Affairs George Simbachawene directed security forces to investigate persons engaged in online harassment, especially those who mocked the president and the government. He urged strict action against those involved. The government also declared it intended to institute a system to control debates on social media, particularly Twitter and Clubhouse platforms.
Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Independent media on the mainland were active and generally expressed varying views, although media outlets often practiced self-censorship to avoid conflict with the government. Although President Hassan pledged to uphold media freedoms, restrictions on certain content, especially relating to health and disease outbreaks, remained in effect.
Initially, President Hassan’s administration appeared to ease restrictions on press freedom. A ban on certain online media outlets was lifted; newspapers focused on investigative journalism ran stories detailing corruption within the government and were not reproached or penalized; and the government began dialogue with media stakeholders to identify needed reforms to the regulatory landscape of the media sector. On April 5, President Hassan announced that banned media outlets should be permitted to reopen and that the country “should not ban the media by force.” While her remarks were later interpreted by the departing government spokesperson to pertain only to online media outlets, activists welcomed this move. In President Hassan’s first speech to parliament in June, she pledged to protect democracy, freedom, and independence of the press. She also however stated, “There is no freedom without limits.”
In August the government suspended Uhuru, a newspaper owned by the ruling CCM party, for 14 days for publishing a story that President Hassan would not vie for office in 2025. This was the first newspaper suspension under Hassan’s administration. On August 27, the Media Council of Tanzania, the Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC), and Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) jointly filed a case at the East African Court of Justice, arguing that the government had showed “contempt of court” in applying nullified provisions of the law to suspend the Uhuru newspaper. In response, chief government spokesman Gerson Msigwa said, “Press freedom is not absolute and not above the law. Her excellency President Samia Suluhu’s promise to deliver press freedom is real, trusted, and well exercised. We do not have oppressive media laws.”
On September 5, the government suspended Raia Mwema, a leading Swahili-language newspaper, for 30 days for “repeatedly publishing false information and deliberate incitement” after its reporting linked a man who was involved in a shooting that left three police officers and a private security guard to the ruling CCM party dead.
Registering or licensing new print and broadcast media outlets became less difficult. Newspaper registration remained at the discretion of the registrar of newspapers at the information ministries on both the mainland and Zanzibar. Previously, acquiring a broadcasting license from the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) took an estimated six months to one year, but observers noted the process was reduced to between 30 and 90 days. The TCRA imposes registration and annual fees for commercial and community radio stations, which disadvantage the creation and operation of small community radio stations.
In June the government amended the Online Content Regulations Amendment (2021) by reducing licensing fees. Amendments to the regulations in 2020 brought new and sweeping content restriction to social media, forums, websites, as well as print content. While the June amendments did not ameliorate content restrictions, they reduced registration fees and abolished requirements for internet cafes to install surveillance cameras, acquire internet protocol (IP) addresses for computers, and register patron identities for record.
During a June 29 meeting with editors and senior journalists, President Hassan committed to strengthening freedom of speech and supporting media development. According to the government, Hassan initiated dialogue with the media to work toward a conducive working environment, support the survival of media houses, and enhance press freedoms. Editors requested President Hassan waive advertising restrictions that were originally imposed to restrict and limit government business through private media. Editors also urged the government to lift Magufuli-era bans on specific media houses and amend hostile media laws and regulations. NGOs and media stakeholders reported that they continued to meet and discuss reform recommendations with government counterparts. The government of Zanzibar controlled content on the radio and television stations it owned but allowed discussions on media policy reform to take place. There were government restrictions on broadcasting in tribal languages, and broadcasts in Kiswahili or English were officially preferred.
The Zanzibar Broadcasting Commission (ZBC) continued to promote the free flow of information, in addition to regulating and supervising broadcasting activities in Zanzibar. ZBC also issued broadcasting licenses for radio, television, and online media in Zanzibar. As of September ZBC registered 27 radio stations, 22 television stations, and 28 online media platforms. On September 1, the Media Council of Tanzania noted that among those outlets, ZBC owned three (ZBC, Spice FM, and ZBC TV) and confirmed that nine private radio stations and five community radio stations operated independently, often reading the content of national dailies, including articles critical of the Zanzibar government.
Violence and Harassment: Authorities attacked, harassed, and intimidated journalists during the year. Journalists and media outlets frequently self-censored to avoid government retribution.
On April 13, Lusubilo Mwakabibi, a local government official in Temeke (Dar es Salaam), reportedly ordered police to arrest journalists Dickson Billikwija and Christopher James after they attempted to attend a meeting between Mwakabibi and traders at a local market. The journalists were released the same day. The minister of information, culture, arts, and sports promised to investigate and hold officials accountable. Authorities did not make the results of this investigation public.
On April 21, officers of Zanzibari government’s KVZ security force reportedly beat and harassed Jessie Mikofu, a Mwananchi Newspaper journalist, while he was photographing street vendors being evicted by authorities. He claimed police destroyed his photography equipment.
On September 24, authorities arrested political cartoonist John Fwema at his home in Dar es Salaam after he posted online a cartoon critical of President Hassan. Police reported that he was being investigated for cybercrimes. Authorities released Fwema on bail and as of year’s end had not filed charges.
On October 2, police arrested Mgawe TV journalist Harold Shemsanga and the station’s owner Ernest Mgawe for illegal assembly, after Shemsanga reported on a jogging event held in Kawe by the women’s league of the opposition Chadema party. Authorities released Shemsanga and Mgawe two days later and as of year’s end had not filed charges against them.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law authorizes police to raid and seize materials from newspaper offices and authorizes the minister responsible for overseeing media to “prohibit or otherwise sanction the publication of any content that jeopardizes national security or public safety.” Censorship of media reporting related to security matters remained in place under President Hassan.
On September 16, President Hassan’s newly appointed minister of information and communications technology, Ashatu Kijaji, used her first public comments to warn media outlets not to spread unverified and unedited information or publish information damaging to the country’s image.
In a departure from the past, certain types of COVID-19 information were widely shared and was no longer restricted under President Hassan, including the promotion of vaccinations and preventive measures among the public. Publication of official government statistics and data on COVID-19 remained limited. On January 5, the TCRA suspended local entertainment Wasafi TV for six months for an alleged violation of the broadcasting regulation during the Tumewasha music festival. The festival was broadcast live on New Year’s Eve, where singer Gift Joshua, known as “Gigy Money,” was accused of dancing almost nude.
Authorities require a permit for reporting on police or prison activities, both on the mainland and in Zanzibar, and journalists need special permission to cover meetings of the National Assembly or attend meetings in the Zanzibar House of Representatives. Anyone publishing information accusing a Zanzibari representative of involvement in illegal activities is liable to a monetary fine, three years’ imprisonment, or both. The government may fine and suspend newspapers without warning.
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 law 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. The law prohibits a person from taking any action or making any statement with the intent of insulting the religious beliefs of another person. Anyone committing such an offense may be punished with a year’s imprisonment.
The government restricted access to the internet and monitored websites and internet traffic. Online material deemed “offensive, morally improper” or that “causes annoyance” is prohibited, and those charged with violating the regulations face a substantial monetary fine or a minimum sentence of 12 months in prison. The law 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.” While the number of arrests of individuals who made critical comments on electronic media about the government diminished under President Hassan, individuals were still publicly threatened for publishing critical remarks or opinions, even if they were factually true.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
The law allows persons to collect and disseminate statistical information and puts a system in place for persons who want to access or publish national data. The law no longer provides prison sentences for groups or individuals for publishing independent statistical information. Researchers, however, were still required to obtain permission to conduct and publish research. There continued to be a degree of self-censorship due to the government’s lack of tolerance for criticism.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The government restricted freedom of peaceful assembly and placed increasing restrictions on freedom of association. Additionally, government attacks on human rights defenders and the arrest of opposition leaders calling for peaceful, democratic protests were restrictions on freedom of assembly and association.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
The government restricted freedom of peaceful assembly, including through bans decreed by authorities but not supported by law. For example, in 2016 the government banned political parties from organizing political activities and rallies until the campaign schedule for the October 2020 elections was announced in August 2020. The government requires organizers of political rallies to obtain police permission. Police may deny permission on public safety or security grounds or if the permit seeker belongs to an unregistered organization or political party. The government and police limited the issuance of permits for public demonstrations and assemblies to opposition political parties, NGOs, and religious organizations. Any organizing of demonstrations or rallies online is prohibited. The only allowable political meetings were by members of parliament in their constituencies; outside participants, including party leaders, were not permitted to participate. The government restricted nonpolitical gatherings deemed critical of the government.
On July 18, Mwanza police confirmed the arrest of 38 Chadema members and supporters in Mwanza Region who attended Chadema’s constitutional reform forum. Police banned the internal meeting, stating that the gathering involved nonparty members, therefore constituting a public forum. Detainees also included Bishop Emmaus Mwamakula of the Moravian Church and Azavery Lwaitama, a retired lecturer from the University of Dar es Salaam.
On July 26, police arrested 54 Chadema opposition members in different parts of the country for demonstrating against Mbowe’s arrest. Police made most arrests outside Kisutu court on July 26 during Mbowe’s court hearing. In early August all 54 members were freed after attorneys threatened to sue the inspector general of police, attorney general, and regional police commander for holding persons against the law if the detainees were not charged or released by August 10 (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees). On July 28, at least 50 members of the Chadema women’s wing (BAWACHA) peacefully demonstrated in Dar es Salaam in support of Mbowe. After the demonstration, police arrested seven participants, including BAWACHA Temeke chairwoman Neema Mwakipesile, as well as former member of parliament Catherine Ruge. Authorities subsequently released all seven without charges.
Freedom of Association
The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. Thousands of NGOs and societies operated in the country. Political parties were required to register and meet membership and other requirements. Freedom of association for workers was limited (see section 7.a.).
According to the LHRC and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, the freedom of association for NGOs has been jeopardized by the law, which reduces the autonomy of NGOs and provides for excessive regulation of the NGO sector. The government’s registrar of NGOs, a presidential appointee, stated that the process of deregistration underscored the need for NGOs to comply with the law and provide transparency and accountability in their activities. Under existing law, however, the registrar of NGOs is granted sweeping powers to suspend and deregister NGOs, leaving loopholes that could be used to obstruct political opposition and human rights NGOs (see section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation, and section 5, Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights).
The law makes a distinction between NGOs and societies and applies different registration procedures to the two. It defines a society as any club, company, partnership, or association of 10 or more persons, regardless of its purpose, and notes specific categories of organizations not considered societies, such as political parties. The law defines NGOs to include organizations whose purpose is to promote economic, environmental, social, or cultural development; protect the environment; or lobby or advocate on topics of public interest. Societies and NGOs may not operate until authorities approve their applications.
In August the Ministry of Home Affairs announced it would change the status of registered societies, including religious organizations, from permanent to temporary. The change mandates that societies and organizations reregister every five years. On August 18, religious leaders met with the ministry and agreed that the requirement for reregistration would exclude religious organizations until proper procedures were put into place. As of March, 9,383 societies were registered – 8,844 were nonreligious entities and 992 were religious organizations (see section 5, Government Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights).
f. Protection of Refugees
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. The National Eligibility Committee, which makes determinations on asylum applications, however, had reportedly not convened since 2018, stalling the status determination process. The asylum rejection rate was 77 percent. The protection environment for refugees, particularly from Burundi, deteriorated during the year. Additionally, the government did not grant UNHCR or diplomatic missions access to the southern border to assess the status of refugees entering from Mozambique. The government continued to deny that asylum seekers crossing into the country from Mozambique merited refugee status (see section 2.f., Refoulement).
In June during the 2021/22 budget speech, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that as of March, 273,252 refugees and asylum seekers had applied for refugee status.
UNHCR intervened in cases of irregular migrants in need of international protection following their arrest by authorities in Dar es Salaam or other urban centers to ensure that the migrants had access to national asylum procedures and were protected from forced return to their country of origin. During the year two groups of 30 refugees were apprehended in Mwanza Region by immigration authorities. UNHCR intercepted their scheduled deportation, and the groups were allowed to return to the Nyarugusu refugee camp. The groups were allegedly attempting to reach a third country to seek asylum.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: No policy for blanket or presumptive denials of asylum exists for applicants arriving from a “safe country of origin” or through a “safe country of transit.” All asylum applications are evaluated individually. The law provides that, unless the transit country is experiencing a serious breach of peace, an asylum claim can be refused upon failure to show reasonable cause as to why asylum was not claimed in the transit country prior to entry into the country.
Refoulement: There were reports of asylum seekers from Mozambique who were returned without access to UNHCR assessments of the voluntariness of the returns. In addition there were reports that some long-standing Mozambican migrants living in the southern part of the country, including those with Tanzanian family members, were also expelled from the country. The government did not accept Mozambican asylum seekers who were fleeing violence in the northern province of Cabo Delgado into southern the southern part of the country. Per an agreement with the government of Mozambique, the government reportedly returned more than 10,000 Mozambicans who crossed into Tanzania back to unknown locations in Mozambique.
While nearly 88,000 Burundian refugees had been repatriated since September 2017, with more than 20,000 repatriated in 2021 alone, there were numerous accounts of refugees facing intimidation or pressure by Tanzanian authorities to return home. UNHCR expressed grave concerns regarding validating the voluntariness of the returns. Some refugees who were pressured into returning to Burundi became refugees in other countries or returned to Tanzania. The government does not allow UNHCR to reregister those who return, preventing them from accessing humanitarian assistance or basic services.
In July UNHCR reported that 25 Ugandan nationals had attempted to seek asylum in January based on claims of persecution for their sexual orientation. They were temporarily allowed to remain in Dar es Salaam and receive UNHCR-provided services pending adjudication of asylum claims by the National Eligibility Committee. In July their asylum claims were rejected due to lack of credible evidence of persecution, according to the Refugee Services Department. They were subsequently deported to Uganda by police and immigration officers without the opportunity to appeal. UNHCR was unable to seek a court order to halt the deportation. UNHCR stated the government’s deportation process was an affront to the universal nonrefoulment principle. The country does not provide asylum on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression.
Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: The government suspended livelihood options for refugees by closing businesses operating inside the camps and common markets outside the camps where refugees and the surrounding communities could exchange goods. According to NGOs working in the camps, there was an increase in gender-based violence and other problems due to the loss of livelihoods. In July and August an international NGO reported five cases of gender-based violence in the Nyarugusu refugee camp on the western border. Most of the cases were women who were forced to repatriate to Burundi by their spouses and who had returned to Nyarugusu due to lack of shelter and services in Burundi, or spousal abuse or neglect.
There were reports of refugees found outside the camps being detained, beaten, abused, raped, or killed by officials or citizens.
Gender-based violence against refugees continued, including allegations against officials who worked in or around refugee camps. UNHCR worked with local authorities and residents in the three refugee camps to strengthen coordination and address violence, including sexual violence, against vulnerable persons. The public prosecutor investigated, prosecuted, and punished perpetrators of abuses in the camp, while international NGOs assisted the legal team when requested by a survivor. Local authorities and the public prosecutor handled most cases of refugee victims of crime and abuse outside the camp. Residents of the refugee camps suffered delays and limited access to courts, common problems also faced by citizens.
Freedom of Movement: Refugees apprehended more than 2.5 miles outside their camps without permits are subject by law to sentences ranging from a fine up to a three-year prison sentence (see section 2.d.). Policy restrictions limiting refugee freedom of movement and access to livelihoods left the refugee population almost totally dependent on humanitarian assistance and vulnerable to a range of protection risks, including sexual and gender-based violence.
More than 50 Burundian refugees were arrested and held in prisons for allegedly leaving the camps and seeking outside employment.
Employment: Even when refugees have official status, they generally are not able to work, especially in view of the country’s strict encampment policies. The government generally prohibits livelihood and income-generating activities in its three refugee camps, especially for Burundian refugees.
Durable Solutions: During the year the government focused on repatriation and did not support local integration as a durable solution. The government enhanced pressure on Burundian refugees to return to Burundi, promoting repatriation as the only durable solution for Burundian refugees. UNHCR continued to assist voluntary returns under the framework of a tripartite agreement between the governments of Burundi and Tanzania and UNHCR, stressing that conditions inside Burundi were not yet conducive for large-scale returns because many Burundian refugees remained in need of international protection. Nonetheless, the government increased pressure on Burundian refugees to sign up for returns. The government implemented measures to make life more difficult for refugees, including closing the shared refugee and host community markets in February and restricting camp exit permits.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, from January to August, more than 20,000 Burundian refugees repatriated voluntarily. According to UNHCR, more than 88,000 Burundian refugees had returned to Burundi with assistance since 2017. During 2019, 1,350 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 82 from other countries were resettled in other countries.