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Key Developments

» Anti-press attacks increase, with police believed responsible for a third of them.

» A vicious attack against a journalist remains unsolved.

As public dissent grew in the lead-up to the 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections, attacks and threats against journalists rose. Police were believed to be the perpetrators in nearly a third of the cases. Unidentified assailants brutally attacked a veteran journalist in March, but authorities had not identified the motive, attackers, or mastermind in late year. The increase in threats and attacks occurred alongside a backdrop of anti-press legislation. CPJ identified 17 repressive media-related statutes, including a ban on publications the government considers seditious. For five years, Tanzanian authorities have pledged to address the legislation, but no changes had taken place in late year. CPJ found that the laws were used to induce self-censorship in the independent press. One paper, the critical weekly MwanaHalisi, was silenced indefinitely under the 1976 Newspaper Act.

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    Threats and attacks
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    Minute attack
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    Years of silence
  • 3

    Appeals delayed

Anti-press attacks and threats continued in 2013, as journalists sought to cover protests in the southern Mtwara region and expose corruption in the local government. Though the majority of threats and attacks originated from unknown sources, CPJ found that police and security forces constituted nearly a third of the perpetrators.

CPJ research showed that 68 percent of the cases occurred outside Dar es Salaam.

threats and attacks, by region:

Threats and Attacks on the Press in Tanzania

Threats against journalists:


Attacks on journalists:



In March, three unidentified men viciously attacked Absalom Kibanda, chairman of the Tanzania Editors Forum and managing editor of the media company New Habari Corp. The assailants cut off the top of Kibanda's right ring finger, pierced his left eye, and pried out several teeth and fingernails. Kibanda lost the eye--a glass one is now in its place.

Security guards and a neighbor of Kibanda told an independent investigative committee that the entire attack took five minutes.

The journalist's cash-filled wallet and iPad were left behind, signs that the assault was motivated by something other than robbery. He was recovering at home in late year after undergoing medical treatment in South Africa.

The perpetrators and masterminds had not been identified in late year.


Since 2008, Tanzanian authorities have publicly stated that they will address a series of anti-press laws that contravene the country's constitutional pledge to uphold press freedom. No changes have taken place to date. CPJ has identified at least 17 anti-press laws on Tanzania's books.

Some of the restrictive laws:

Tanganyika Penal Code, 1945

Criminalizes the use of abusive and insulting language "likely to cause a breach of peace." Also punishes the media for nondisclosure of their sources in court proceedings.

National Security Act, 1970

It is a punishable offense for a person to obtain, possess, comment on, share, or publish any document or piece of information that the government considers classified.

The Newspaper Act, 1976

Gives the responsible minister wide discretionary powers to ban or close down newspapers or prohibit importation of a publication. Section 36(1) states that any person who prints, publishes, imports or sells a "seditious publication" is guilty of an offense; anyone who publishes a false statement, rumor, or report "likely to cause fear and alarm or disturb the public peace" is guilty of the offense.

Broadcast Service Act, 1993

Provides for state regulation of electronic media and allows the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), a nominally independent agency, to close stations at will. The agency is subject to government influence since the president appoints the TCRA's board chairman and director-general.

Authorities have delayed hearings on an appeal by the critical weekly MwanaHalisi at least three times, most recently in April, according to the paper's lawyer, Nshala Rugemeleza.

MwanaHalisi was suspended by authorities on July 30, 2012, on vague allegations of sedition under the draconian 1976 Newspaper Act, according to local journalists and news reports. This is the first time authorities have indefinitely suspended a publication, according to the paper's editor, Saed Kubenea.

The information ministry said four editions of the paper contained seditious and false material, but did not specify which articles.

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