IMS support leads to descending press violations in Tanzania

Through dialogues between local journalists and local police units, Tanzania has seen a decrease in the number of press violations.

Advocacy campaigns by media stakeholders with support from IMS have been effective as the number of press violations for 2022 have gone down from an average of 20 cases per year for the year 2020 and 2021 to three cases in 2022.

The State of the Media in Tanzania Report for 2020-2021 by the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), with IMS support indicates 41 reported cases of press violations an average of 20 per each year.

Recalling, Zanzibar Press Club Chairperson Abdalla A. Mfaume said journalists in the Isles were victims of harassment from the police. 

Union of Tanzania Press Clubs (UTPC) Programme Officer Victor Maleko says journalists in the country faced a lot of threats and intimidations where most of them were not free to work amid beatings with working tools confiscated.

In 2020, Mwarabu Mumadi, a scribe for an online TV channel in the Isle, found himself under a gun point as he and his colleagues tried to take pictures. Shagata Suleiman, a scribe with the Daily News, a government paper, was also arrested while pursuing a story in 2021. 

Edwin Soko, Mwanza Press Club Chairperson echoes the sentiment saying the region was once a battlefield between the police and scribes especially during the 2020 general elections where the situation was tense.

“We had a lot of confrontations with the police and had no platform to vent our grievances. Journalists were at times barred from working, arrested and I had to go there to bail them,” recalls Soko.

Through the dialogues he says the duos formed a task force comprising of the police force and journalists where they have a WhatsApp group and handle all issues before they get out of hand with the Regional Police Commander taking lead.

Assistant Inspector of Police and in charge of the information desk in Mwanza region, Oscar Samuel Msuya, a journalist by profession relayed his gratitude to the IMS and UTPC for the dialogue and shared how the situation was between the police and members of the press in the region and the turn out and this is what he had to say:

“In the past the situation between the police and journalists in the region was tense and it was created by a gap between the two as they had negative perceptions about each other.  Journalists perceived the police as trouble mongers who abhorred them while the latter perceived scribes as bad persons,” says the Oscar.

He admits that the first dialogue consisted of finger pointing but eventually the police admitted that they had understood that journalists and the police were like siblings all working to serve Tanzania for the public good.

According to the UTPC final report, 648 journalists and police officers participated in the SoJ dialogues over the course of the EU Action’s two-year implementation period. There were 161 police officers among the 648 participants. These discussions took place in Mwanza, Dodoma, Morogoro, Kigoma, Shinyanga, Arusha, and Zanzibar.