Press freedom is in good shape in Tanzania, except in the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, where local politicians continued to think there was no reason not to crack down on the news media if they felt the need.
More than 400 newspapers are registered with the Tanzania Information Service, including 11 dailies and 59 weeklies. There are also some 30 radio stations and 20 commercial TV stations. The news media are unquestionably diverse in Tanzania.
Media watchdog groups urged the government to adopt a new press law on World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2003. A few weeks later, information minister Mohammed Seif Khatib told parliament that the current law, which does not allow the electronic media to cover more than a quarter of the country, was obsolete and out of date. He announced that the government was preparing a new law.
But there is no press freedom in Zanzibar. The local authorities there continued to make life difficult for the few independent news media based in the archipelago. The weekly Dira and its editor were subjected to all-out harassment.
A journalist detained
Praxeda Mtani of the commercial TV station Televisheni ya Taifa (TVT) was detained for several hours on 14 November 2003 at police headquarters in the eastern district of Kilombero after he reporting that local residents were being expropriated to make land available for the sugar industry. The local authorities had banned the media from covering the expropriations.
Three journalists physically attacked
Hamis Hamad, a photographer with the daily Uhuru and the weekly Mzalendo, was attacked by security guards working for the municipality of Kinondoni (a part of Dar es Salaam) on 25 January 2003. The Press Photographers Association of Tanzania protested and asked the Kinondoni town council to sanction those responsible.
Tegemea Mwanhandisa, a freelance photographer who works for the daily Majira and the newspaper Dar Leo, was attacked on 14 February by security guards employed by New Boy Entertainment at Morogoro (200 km east of the capital) after he photographed two couples kissing without their permission at an event staged by the company.
Emmanuel Muga, a journalist with the weekly The Express, was manhandled on 8 April by Muhidin Ndolanga of the Football Association of Tanzania after taking photographs of his office without his permission. At the same time, a dozen reporters who had come to ask about the report of the association’s general assembly were ejected from the premises.
Harassment and obstruction
The immigration department confiscated the Tanzanian passport of Ali Nabwa , the editor of the Zanzibar-based weekly Dira, on 24 June 2003. Officials claimed that Nabwa had chosen Comoran nationality at the age of 18 and that he was therefore living in Tanzania illegally and his passport was invalid. In an accord reached the next day with immigration officials, Nabwa agreed to file a naturalisation request on 2 July. In the meantime, he was given a provisional passport but he could not resume working.
Authorities on Kome, an island on Lake Victoria in the northern region of Mwanza, expelled a group of local and foreign journalists on 10 October, confiscating their passports and their press accreditation cards and demanding 300 dollars to return them. The journalists, who included two Frenchmen and an American, had gone to Kome to report on fishing in the region. On 15 October, they complained to the Mwanza regional authorities who ordered the Kome authorities to return the documents and let the journalists work freely.
The Zanzibar supreme court fined the weekly Dira 660 million shillings (about 650,000 euros) on 27 October for publishing "false and harmful" reports about Zanzibar President Amani Karume’s children. In two articles published in January, the weekly had accused the president’s children of using their father’s influence to buy up state-owned companies.
The Zanzibar authorities closed Dira indefinitely on 24 November. The government said it had been "forced to take this action after realising that the newspaper is a threat to national unity because of the publication of articles that could disrupt peace and solidarity in Zanzibar." When Dira announced its intention to publish on the Internet instead, the government responded on 3 December by threatening to prosecute the newspaper’s management if they tried to get round the ban in this manner.