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Tanzania’s Foreign Media Ownership Restrictions Impact Citizen’s Freedom of Speech

The Tanzanian government should allow unrestricted ownership and investment in the media industry.

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In Tanzania, foreign investment in the media sector is severely limited. According to section 4(1)(b) of the Media Services Regulation, 2017, foreign investors can own less than 50 per cent of the print media companies. 

These regulatory constraints and government restrictions affect the economic development of the nation. Furthermore, the regulation has significant negative human rights implications as it stifles the diversity of voices within the media industry, violating citizens’ freedom of speech.  

The Tanzanian government should allow unrestricted ownership and investment in the media industry. The government should promote public-private partnerships and establish media policies that adhere to the East African Community’s (EAC) competition principles.

Recently, there have been increased incidences of unethical journalism in Tanzania attributed to excessive government control and lack of independent resources. Journalists and media outlets reportedly receive tokens and write according to the source’s demands. 

Foreign investment can erode such unethical practices. Media houses with independent investors are likelier to produce quality, unbiased output than government or state-owned media houses. 

READ MORE: Report Highlights Sorry State of Tanzania’s Media Economy: Falling Revenues, Tech Challenges, and the Rise of ‘Comedic’ Journalism

Government or state-owned media may prioritise narratives that support government interests, potentially compromising the quality and impartiality of their output. 

Therefore, the Tanzanian government should revisit and revise its policies to allow foreign investors to invest freely, with no limitations on the percentage of media ownership.

Additionally, there is a need to promote public-private partnerships to advance this industry. Collaboration between domestic media houses and foreign investors can improve resource-sharing and expertise for the timely and ethical dissemination of news. 

The government should establish frameworks for mutually beneficial partnerships between the public and private sectors to uphold high journalistic standards. 

These frameworks should include clear ethical guidelines, collaborative initiatives to support quality journalism, financial support mechanisms, and legal protections for press freedom and independence. 

READ MORE: Practitioners Express Cautious Optimism for the Future of Media in Tanzania

This approach will address the financial constraints faced by domestic investors and enhance the quality of information accessible to citizens within a year. This is particularly crucial in the context of regional trade integration.

Tanzania is a member of the East African Community (EAC). The EAC is a regional organisation of eight countries established in 2000 to promote economic integration, political cooperation, and social development. 

It facilitates the free movement of goods, services, and people to create a common market and monetary union. The EAC focuses on infrastructure, trade, health, and education to foster regional stability and sustainable development. 

The East African Community Competition Act of 2006 prohibits anti-competition practices. Section 5(2)(d) of the East African Community Competition Act prohibits quantitative restraints on investment, input, output or sales. However, Tanzania’s media policy restricts foreign investment to  49 per cent or less, contradicting the EAC’s principles of free trade and hindering media development. 

The Tanzanian government must comply with the EAC principles it is a part of. It must facilitate free trade by opening up investment opportunities, which can meet the needs of the media sector and support regional economic integration. 

READ MORE: Tanzania’s Media Services Act: A Manifestation of the Man With the Hammer Syndrome?

Freeing investment restrictions on Tanzanian media houses will promote cultural diversity and economic growth. By allowing foreign investments, the mythical fear of diluting domestic culture is debunked, as cultural influence is not singularly determined but rather a result of various factors. 

Opening up the media sector to foreign investments aligns with Tanzania’s membership in the EAC, which emphasises the elimination of barriers to competition.

Media organisations with substantial investments provide quality information. These investments may originate from countries outside of the domestic sphere. Consequently, it becomes crucial to maintain a delicate equilibrium between protecting domestic investors and adhering to the principles of competition, which is essential for growth.  

With a thorough review and refinement of the existing media policy, Tanzania will be well-positioned to play a significant role in fostering the East African region’s collective advancement and economic prosperity.

Francis Nyonzo is a writing fellow at African Liberty, a U.S.-based think-tank focused on advancing individual freedom, peace, and prosperity in Africa. He’s available at or on X as @nyawale. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please contact our editors at

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