Pro-LGBTI organisations targetted in Tanzania as government clamps down on dissent
On 8th August, the justice minister Harrison Mwakyembe announced plans to suspend the registration of any civil society organisation that supports homosexuality. The announcement follows calls from the regional commissioner in Dar es Salaam for a crackdown on LGBTI groups on social media. In late July, a senior government official in the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and Justice had ruled out the possibility of the Tanzanian government recognising gay marriages, emphasising that homosexual relationships remained illegal in the country. In reference to recommendations made during Tanzania's Universal Periodic Review, which amongst other things criticised the government's failure to protect LGBTI rights, the official said the government "will never entertain recommendations that are contrary [to] the law of the land and the cultural norms of the society."
On 7th July, police used teargas to disperse crowds that were demonstrating against what they referred to as President Magufuli's undemocratic practices. The protests followed the government's decision to stop the live broadcast of parliamentary debates. In the wake of these disturbances police banned all demonstrations and public rallies "until the security situation improves." Subsequently, the president responded to opposition plans to continue protesting on 1st September by threatening demonstrators, saying he would deal with troublemakers "without mercy."
The authorities in Tanzania have recently closed space for dissent and criticism. In June, two people were arrested for using abusive language against the president on social media, with one being sentenced to three years in prison for calling the president an idiot. In July, the editor and a reporter from newspaper Mwananchi were called in for police questioning, after publishing a story on law enforcement in the country. This crackdown has led to self-censorship by both journalists and social media users, who are fearful of repercussions as a result of critical commentary or reporting.
On 27th June, a group of citizens asked the High Court to declare unconstitutional the government's decision to stop live broadcasts of parliamentary debates. The petitioners argued that this decision interfered with their right to unfettered access to parliamentary debates and their right to access to information.
A social media ban on civil servants during working hours issued in March 2016 still stands and civil servants have been warned that failure to abide by this ban and "gossiping during working hours" would lead to dismissal.