The United Republic of Tanzania is a Republic with an Executive President. The country has a multi-party system with the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party basically being in power since 1961, when Tanzania attained its independence. Running as the candidate of the ruling CCM, Dr John Joseph Magufuli won the October 2015 presidential election and was sworn in on 5 November 2015. Magufuli's presidency has been marked by a focus on reducing government corruption and spending – and a harsh hand on media.
Wind of change... for the worse
The increase in media freedom observable in the past-1992 decade is now under siege, following the enactment and implementation of restrictive laws and government decisions since the fifth phase administration came into power in November 2015. The laws that infringe upon freedom of the media and freedom of expression in the country include the Cybercrime Act, 2015, The Statistics Act, 2015, Media Services Act 2016 and Access to Information Act, 2016. While the latter was first considered a positive step, it become obvious that it contains major loopholes that undermine the independence of the media. Generally, the current administration seems sensitive to criticism and bent on creating a timid media. Its actions and decisions block efforts to develop robust and independent media in Tanzania, which is essential in the enhancement of democracy.
Subtle ways of undermining freedom of information
Examples of decisions of fifth phase administration, that have adversely affected press freedom in the country, are the ban of live parliamentary reporting and cancelling the registration of 473 newspapers and magazines.
The latter action reduced the number of publications operating legally in the Tanzanian market by more that 50%. This decision by the government goes far beyond the cancelled registration of so many print media outlets, as it also scares off new investors in the print media sector. As a result, after the move, the number of publications went further down.
Live coverage of the Parliament began in mid 2005 and became very popular during the fourth phase administration. These uncensored real-time broadcasts were important because of the relevance of parliamentary proceedings to the people and their importance in encouraging pluralistic politics. However, the government banned live parliamentary broadcasting in April 2016 and introduced a new system instead, in which all broadcasters are now handed heavily edited clips of parliamentary debates to broadcast.