“SOS we are being taken away for interrogation in Dar. We don’t know why. Taken Away from Southern Sun Hotel,” South African journalist Angela Quintal posted on Facebook around 10pm on Wednesday night.
Quintal is visiting Tanzania, a country where press freedom is threatened by President John Magufuli’s regime. Journalists have disappeared while others face suspensions, threats of violence, arrests and bans. Newspapers have been forcibly shut down.
In August 2018 the Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) said at least five newspapers and two radio stations had been suspended for periods ranging from three to 36 months on pretexts including “false information”, “sedition” and “threatening national security”.
It is believed that the Department of Intentional Relations has raised the matter with the South African High Commissioner in Tanzania.
According to Freedom House, an independent media watchdog, Tanzania’s media is rated as “partly free”.
It notes that “although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, it does not specifically guarantee freedom of the press”.
Current laws, says Freedom House, provide authorities with “broad discretion to restrict media on the basis of national security or public interest, and difficult registration processes hinder print and electronic media”.
The media landscape in the country, according to Freedom House, “is diverse but deeply polarised along political lines”.
Control of the media is mostly concentrated in the hands of a few proprietors – including the government, which reportedly withholds advertising contracts from outlets critical of the state.
A Cybercrimes Act was passed in 2015 which could result in prison terms and fines for a variety of online activities.
According to Freedom House, authorities have used the Act “to bring charges against at least 10 individuals; among them was a senior university lecturer who was charged in September 2016 for insulting the president in a WhatsApp message”.
This is a developing story. DM
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