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Here Is Why Tanzania Needs Mindset Shift to Guarantee Journalists’ Safety

Recent attacks on journalists in the country have some actors calling for constitutional protection.

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Mbeya. Recent arrests of journalists from across Tanzania have raised concerns among press freedom actors in the East African nation over the safety of the members of the Fourth Estate, which they think is growing more elusive despite state assurances that it recognises the role of journalists and will safeguard their welfare and security.

Union of Tanzania Press Clubs (UTPC), an umbrella body of press clubs in Tanzania, says it has recorded 57 press freedom violations from 2022 to date, with six incidents recorded in the past six months of 2024 alone. Almost all incidents involved government officials and members of the country’s security forces.

During an interview, Victor Maleko, UTPC’s programme officer, told The Chanzo that most incidents happen to journalists doing public interest journalism, mostly stories pressing for public accountability, inviting the ire of public officials who would otherwise prefer to keep things under the rag.

“If you look closely, you find that most journalists who had found themselves in troubles are those who did stories that uncovered wrongdoing within a particular government agency or a certain public official,” Mr Maleko said. “Essentially, they’re stories that reminded public officials of what the people, taxpayers, expect from them.”

Recent cases

The most recent journalist who did that, prompting police to arrest and detain her for days before releasing her, is Dinna Maningo, who was among the first journalist in the country to report on allegations that then-Simiyu regional commissioner Yahya Nawanda had raped a 21-year-old university student Tumsime Mathias.

READ MORE: Journalist Dinna Maningo Still Detained After a Week. Two More Journalists Samweli Mwanga and Constantine Mathias Arrested in Simiyu

Police in Mwanza released Maningo, publisher of Dima Online, on June 20, 2024, after detaining her for a whole week, from June 13, alongside other journalists, Samweli Mwanga and Constantine Mathias, who were also arrested on June 16 and June 17, respectively on similar charges.

Other recent incidents highlighting the increasing threat to public interest journalists in Tanzania include the decision by Bariadi district commissioner Simon Simalenga to kick journalists out of key meetings and the arrest of blogger Kazimbaya Makwega after he accused the University of Dodoma of mismanagement, to name but a few. 

The government’s chief spokesperson, Thobias Makoba, directed The Chanzo to speak with the police spokesperson, David Misime, to learn about the measures authorities take to ensure journalists’ safety while doing their jobs. However, Mr Misime was not immediately available to comment. 

Notable relations

These challenges on journalists occur at a time when Tanzania’s media fraternity enjoys a notable relationship with the government, attested by several progressive measures the Samia Suluhu Hassan Administration has implemented as part of its commitment to promote press freedom in Tanzania.

These measures – reviewing draconian online content regulations, partially amending the controversial Media Services Act of 2016, lifting a ban on several newspapers and expressing concern over the economy of the media in the country, among others – rightly boosted Tanzania’s ranking in the global freedom of the press indexes, which authorities frequently pride themselves of.

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

However, stakeholders think that the recurring attacks on journalists mean that if they’re to succeed, efforts to promote freedom of the press in Tanzania have to go beyond regulatory and legal reforms to include systemic and comprehensive interventions to achieve a cultural and mindset change on the part of public officials concerning journalists and their works.

Biggest perpetrators

This is critical given that available evidence singles out government officials, including members of law enforcement authorities, as the biggest perpetrators of press freedom violations in Tanzania, as demonstrated by the recently released State of the Media in Tanzania 2022 – 2023 report by the Media Council of Tanzania and other reports before it.

Dastan Kamanzi, a media expert whose Tanzania Media Foundation (TMF) supports media independence in the country, thinks that part of that systemic and cultural redress should be rewriting respective media laws to give journalists independence from having their works interfered with.

“Without such a clear protection, preferably a constitutional one, it’s challenging for journalists to be sure of their safety while doing their work,” Mr Kamanzi said. “You cannot expect a public official whose top priority is to hide things from the public to be friendly with a journalist whose priority is to make those things public. It’s just impossible.”

Albert Sengo, a journalist with the Mwanza-based radio station Jembe FM, who was charged with running an unlicensed online media in 2020, said that he supports both increased authorities’ understanding of journalists’ work and constitutional protection. However, while waiting for those reforms to materialise, journalists should continue doing their jobs and refuse to be intimidated.

READ MORE: Headwinds Media in Switzerland and Tanzania Face

“Anything enabling journalists to work in a safer and more secure environment should be welcomed,” Mr Sengo told The Chanzo. “But we can’t stop doing our job waiting for such reforms. They should find us in the field doing our job. Arrests aim at intimidating journalists and force them to stop doing their jobs. If we give in, it means that our enemies have won. We shouldn’t.”

Almost everyone who spoke with The Chanzo emphasised the need to empower journalists, especially those who own their own digital platforms, on the ethics, laws, and regulations governing the media in Tanzania.

They unshakeably believe that understanding the legal framework and professional ethics will make journalists in Tanzania less vulnerable to threats, particularly from state authorities.

Modesta Mwambene reports for The Chanzo from Mbeya. She is available at

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