CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Tanzania

Live rating: Repressed

Last updated on 19.10.2020 at 12:56

Latest Civicus alert

See all CIVICUS Alerts

The Civic Space Developments

view Civic Space Developments
More restrictions reported ahead of October election

More restrictions reported ahead of October election

Offices of leading opposition party CHADEMA, in Arusha, attacked with firebombs and badly damaged; Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition's (THRDC) bank accounts frozen following an order from authorities;

On 14th September 2020, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, drew attention to Tanzania in a global human rights update to the UN Human Rights Council. She mentioned the increasing repression of democracy and civic space and a deeply deteriorated environment for human rights. Ten foreign missions in Tanzania representing various European countries and Canada issued a joint statement calling for free and fair elections and assurance that security for all contestants is secured.

Association

As Tanzania enters the final few months before the Presidential election scheduled for 28th October 2020, several opposition parties have reported widespread irregularities in the process for enrolling candidates for the election. Most notably, leading opposition figure Tundu Lissu stated that dozens of candidates from his party CHADMEA had been disqualified for “unfair reasons”. In addition, since mid-June 2020, at least 17 opposition party members and critics of the government have been arrested, with the increased oppression of opposition, suspension of human rights groups and the limiting of international media coverage of the elections being directly linked to the current government, led by President John Magufuli, working to control the election by silencing any opposition.

On 13th August 2020, the northern headquarters of leading opposition party CHADEMA, in Arusha, was attacked with firebombs and badly damaged. On the same day, the leader of CHADEMA, Tundu Lissu, reported that his convoy had been attacked by people throwing stones. As previously reported on the Monitor, Lissu recently returned to Tanzania after several years in exile following a failed assassination attempt in 2017.

In separate developments, on 17th August 2020, the Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) had their bank accounts frozen following an order from the Tanzanian Police, who reportedly received instructions to do so from government officials. THRDC was subsequently forced to close operations and cancel planned events. THRDC were recently targeted in June, when their workshop was shut down by the police and two of their staff arrested, as previously documented.

Expression

The Tanzanian government continues to silence media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, most recently through enacting new online content regulations in early August 2020, as previously reported on the Monitor. Concerns have been raised that the crackdown on what journalists can report in the pandemic will stifle access to public health information. Reports have also emerged of a toll-free number for citizens to report anyone spreading rumours about COVID-19 on social media.

Separately, a social media campaign, “#WhereIsAzory” was recently launched to bring renewed attention to the disappearance of Azory Gwanda, a freelance journalist working in rural Tanzania who went missing in November 2017. To date, there has been no credible investigation carried out. 

Peaceful Assembly

Article 20 (1) of the Constitution of Tanzania guarantees the right of peaceful assembly. A notification must be provided to the police 48 hours before holding a demonstration.

Article 20 (1) of the Constitution of Tanzania guarantees the right of peaceful assembly. A notification must be provided to the police 48 hours before holding a demonstration. The police can deny an assembly if it considers the assembly is likely to ‘cause a breach of the peace, prejudice the public safety or public order, be used for any unlawful purpose, or for failure to notify in the required time period.’ The Police Force and Auxiliary Service Act 2002 also establish that an assembly of three or more people, who do not obey orders to disperse when requested, would be classified as an “unlawful assembly”. In practice, sometimes security forces used excessive force to disperse peaceful protestors and even arrest protest organisers.

Expression

The constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, however this right is undermined by a number of laws including the National Security Act and the recently enacted Statistics Act and Cybercrimes Act that severely curtail media freedoms and access to information.

The constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, however this right is undermined by a number of laws including the National Security Act and the recently enacted Statistics Act and Cybercrimes Act that severely curtail media freedoms and access to information. In 2016, the Media Services Act was enacted, replacing the problematic Newspaper Act (1976) and the Tanzania News Agency Act (1976). Despite its stated intention to ‘professionalise’ the sector, new Act contains restrictive provisions and has been heavily criticised by media workers and free expression advocates throughout its drafting. In practice, journalists in Tanzania face harassment, threats and detention. Tanzania boasts several independent newspapers and numerous online news-sites and blogs. Nevertheless, government-aligned media dominates the television space. There are no overt restrictions on access to mobile phones or internet technology, but access to a decent internet connection is out of reach for many. As part of the crackdown on the LGBTI community, in 2016 the government announced that it would monitor the social media accounts of citizens who identify as LGBTI, and their followers. The Media Council of Tanzania, a self-regulation body, has been effective at improving standards of journalism while defending the rights of its members in cases where they have been harassed or attacked. The Council documented 20 freedom of expression violations in 2015.