Repression and Media Censorship in Tanzania Under President Magufuli

Nov. 18, 2019 Weekly Graphs

Recent reports published by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemn restrictions on freedom of association and expression in Tanzania by President John Magufli’s administration.  The V-Dem country graph highlights increasing repression of civil society organizations (CSOs), harassment of journalists, and censorship of the media in Tanzania. 

When President Magufuli came in office in 2015, he gained widespread praise for his anti-corruption efforts. Commonly known as the ‘bulldozer’, President Magufuli cancelled expensive independence day celebrations, eliminated government Christmas cards, and limited foreign travel for officials. His anti-corruption and austerity measures inspired the trending hashtag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo.  

Since then, support for the president’s policies have waned as the government increasingly engages in repressive tactics limiting freedom of expression and association. The administration has ordered a ban on all political activities until 2020, which it has then used as leverage to restrict opposition parties’ activities, detain journalists and opposition members, and censor the media.  Legislation passed earlier this year provides broad authority to the government registrar to de-register parties and imposes harsh sentences of up to a year for those engaged in ‘unauthorized civic education’.

The V-Dem country graph illustrates these trends, showing declining scores for government censorship effort of the media, harassment of journalists, and CSO repression since President Magufuli took office in 2015. All three of these indicators range from zero to four, with lower scores indicating less democratic conditions. As shown, scores on these three indicators are now at or below levels observed under the one-party era. 

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