Reporters in Tanzania say they have long had to be creative when covering sensitive matters on politics, government and the economy. But, according to press watchdogs, increasingly restrictive measures placed on media outlets in recent years have left journalism in Tanzania on life support - and undermined the freedom of expression guaranteed under the country’s constitution.

An already oppressive climate has intensified since John Magufuli was elected president in 2015, rights groups say. Among a web of new laws, the 2016 Media Services Act grants the government the ultimate say over which stories meet its definition of being in the ‘national interest’. Journalists say the act blocks stories that don’t toe the government line. And those who breach the law face swift retribution – including suspensions and the revocation of operating licences.

Journalists in Tanzania also face direct physical threats. In 2017 workers at Clouds FM in Dar es Salaam were threatened by regional commissioner Paul Makonda and a group of armed men who burst into their office and demanded that the network broadcast a video impugning a local pastor. When a subsequent investigation into the matter criticised Makonda’s actions the president dismissed the findings.

Developments in Tanzania are being closely watched across East Africa and further afield. The East Africa Court of Justice recently ruled that the Media Services Act undermines human rights protocols in the East Africa Council treaty. Separately, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists launched the #WhereIsAzory campaign in an effort to find crime reporter Azory Gwanda, who has been missing for more than 500 days.

So, as the government is condemned for human rights abuses and opposition politicians face arrest and attack, how can journalists in Tanzania ensure the public remain informed and engaged – especially when they are also the target of restrictive laws and direct threats? We’ll find out on Wednesday’s episode. Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Muthoki Mumo @muthokimumo
Sub-Saharan Africa Representative, Committee to Protect Journalists

Maria Sarungi-Tsehai @MariaSTsehai
Director, Change Tanzania

Aikande C. Kwayu @aikande
Development researcher

Read more:
Tanzania press freedom plunges into unprecedented crisis - International Press Institute
This is how to ensure media freedom in Tanzania - The Citizen

What do you think? Record a video comment or leave your thoughts in the comments below.