Press freedom still best in region despite drop

Tanzania still has the most press freedom of countries in the region, despite a 12 position drop in the World Press Freedom Index.

Abuses against journalists and media outlets are cited as reason why Tanzania has dropped 12 positions in a report issued by Reporters Without Borders this week.

Tanzania’s drop to 83rd place in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index is the third sharpest decline of the 180 countries in the report, next to Tonga and Nicaragua.

However Tanzania is still the best country for press freedoms in East Africa: Kenya ranked 95, Uganda 112, South Sudan 145, Rwanda 159 and Burundi 160.

The report notes that ‘suspensions and closures, threats, attacks, and arrests – are frequent, especially during elections’ and there is no room for criticism in the press.

“There has been a wave of laws, including the Cyber Security Act, the Media Services Act, and the Statistics Act, that criminalize the dissemination of information,” says the report.

Ongoing court cases against Maxence Melo, founder of whistle blowing website JamiiForums, are also mentioned in the report.

“Authorities are now targeting online information, which is freer.”

Journalists should avoid being used by politicians by setting their own agendas, Razia Mwawanga of the Tanzania Media Foundation (TMF) told The Citizen.

“If the media set their own agendas, it could be difficult to be used by politicians for their own interests.”

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