CJFE commends Tanzania for possible reform of media laws, but deplores ongoing attacks on the free press

Friday, July 9, 1999
Note: The following is a letter of protest prepared by the CCPJ. Please send a copy or your own version of this letter to the address below. His Excellency Benjamin Mkapa The President of the United Republic of Tanzania PO Box 9120 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Fax: +255 51 113425 9 July 1998 Your Excellency, On behalf of the Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists (CCPJ), a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to freedom of expression worldwide, I would like to take this opportunity to commend your government's reported decision to consider amending Tanzania's media laws. However, I would also like to draw your attention to recent attacks on the media which give us cause for concern. We welcome Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye's announcement on 19 June that the government would table amendments to media laws. Reform of media laws, including amending anti-free expression clauses in such acts as the Newspaper Act of 1976, the Broadcasting Act of 1993, and the Official Secrets Act, needs to be effected if respect is to be brought back to the journalism profession. As a further step in the right direction, the CCPJ suggests the government turn all discussion of registration and licensing over to professional journalism associations. Indeed, we find the concept of "licensing" journalists to be somewhat disturbing as it allows authorities to control who may or may not engage in reporting the news. Despite your government's noble efforts to curb press censorship, reprisals against journalists and media representatives have been growing in frequency, especially in recent months. One of the tactics used is pressure by police on journalists to reveal sources. At least four journalists have recently been pressured to reveal their sources, including British Broadcasting Corporation correspondent Nechi Lyimo and Daniel Mjema, a reporter for the newspaper "Majira", who were questioned last month. Police have been responsible for other attacks on press freedom, such as the 3 June detention and beating of "Mtanzania" photojournalist Ally Mwankufi in Dar es Salaam. On 21 June, police confiscated the film of photo-journalist Amour Nassour of the state-owned weekly "Nuru". We are further concerned about the June 8 bans imposed on the chief executives of "Kashesche," "Chombeza," and "Arusha Leo" for publishing allegedly "pornographic cartoons and unethical articles" in their newspapers. The newspapers "Watu" and "Tingisha" were subsequently banned, the latter because it appeared to be "Kashesche" publishing under a new name. The attempts to silence reporters have even gone so far as to include arson, such as the fire bombing which destroyed Nechi Lyimo's home on June 30. Our colleagues in the region report that the bombing is believed to be related to the interrogation of Lyimo. Such measures are reprehensible and should cease immediately. We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure the backlash against journalists in Tanzania does not worsen, and have faith that you will do so given that your government has demonstrated good will with proposed media law reforms. Yours sincerely, Wayne Sharpe Executive Director

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