Tanzanian President tells critical newspapers 'days are numbered'

Expression

On 13th January, Tanzanian president John Magufuli warned two unnamed newspapers against what he called 'spurring dissent'. In an official press release, the president gave an ominous warning to the newspapers that their days were numbered if they continued to spread 'seditious' content. The high-level warning is reportedly having a chilling effect on the country's journalists, some of whom now feel they must tread carefully in order to avoid the repercussions that could come from reporting on anything that could be described or interpreted as spurring dissent. The warning has compounded an already tense situation created by the arrests of several people in 2016 for allegedly insulting the president on social media. Secretary General of the Tanzania Editors Forum, Neville Meena, responded to Magafuli's statement by saying:

'What he has just said contradicts his promise and makes the media fraternity feel apprehensive. He should leave other authorities to do their job if it is true that the media has been violating laws.'

Association

On his visit to Tanzania in January, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the Tanzanian government to close down all institutions associated with exiled Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. The Turkish government accuses Gulen of masterminding the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, which left many dead. Tens of thousands were imprisoned as the government accused them of participating in the coup. There are 11 schools in Tanzania with over 3,000 students that are inspired by Gulen, but the schools deny any direct link with the cleric.

The call to close all institutions linked to Gulen in Tanzania is a threat to the freedom of association. The message from the Turkish president was accompanied by promises of cooperation with Tanzania in various areas, including agriculture and tourism. Local civil society organisations are concerned that the Tanzanian government will be enticed by Turkish investment promises and interfere with the operations of the identified institutions, although there is no evidence that they are linked to the attempted coup.

Peaceful Assembly

On 16th January, over 500 people marched to protest against Chinese ivory trade. In just five years, ivory trade has led to the poaching of more than 60% of Tanzania's elephants. The protest march was organised by the Chinese ambassador in Tanzania and the Tanzania-China Friendship Promotion Association. It was allowed to proceed without interference, in stark contrast to other demonstrations in the third and fourth quarters of 2016, when the police used heavy-handed tactics to prevent or suppress them.