(Extracts from the forthcoming ‘Article 19 International Centre on Censorship’ World Report for 1990 on Freedom of Expression)
When Tanzania gained independence in 1961 the media was controlled by private interests. The country’s leading newspaper and only dally, the ‘Tanganyika Standard’ W8S owned by the London-based Lonrho Company.
Dr Julius Nyerere laid the foundations of Tanganyika’s first important African press. In the mid 1950’s he produced ‘Sauti ya Tanu’ , a duplicated newsletter in a mixture of English and Swahili which was later renamed ‘Mwaafrika’. On several occasions the paper clashed with the British colonial authorities, leading, in 1985, to the jailing of its editors. Dr Nyerere, as the de facto editor, was fined for a libel against the British Governor.
In 1961 TANU launched a pre-independence daily – ‘Uhuru’ meaning Freedom. In April 1964 the Party launched its first English language newspaper ‘The Nationalist’.
After the Arusha Declaration many firms were nationalised and the axe finally fell on the independent press in 1969. The ‘Tanganyika Standard’ was renamed the ‘Standard Tanzania’ but its Sunday partner continued under the title ‘Sunday News’, a title it has retained to this day.
President Nyerere maintained that he did not wish the Standard to be a government mouthpiece but expected it to give general support to government policy. In practice however, the then editor, Frene Ginwalla, often consulted the President or his office for direction on stories, particularly those pertaining to major political decisions and the Liberation struggle. But, despite directives from State House, Miss Ginwalla also proved that she had a mind of her own. During the crisis which brought Field Marshall Idi Amin to power in Uganda, Ginwalla printed stories without Presidential guidance. Not eyen President Nyerere himself was free from criticism. When the President turned to Barclays Bank for funding a project in East Africa, Miss Ginwalla stated that the wrong partner had been picked because Barclays was funding a massive dam project in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique. While President Nyerere, as Editor In Chief, took the criticism in good spirit, it is said that this was the last time the Tanzanian Head of State was criticised in the columns of his country’s media. Miss Ginwalla was later replaced.
The ‘Dally News’ (circulation 50,000) is currently the one daily English language newspaper; it is supported by government subsidies. The ‘Sunday News’ has a circulation of 50,000, the Swahili ‘Uhuru’ 100,000 and its weekend edition, ‘Mzalendo’ 115,000.
Most other publications are produced either by the Ministry of Information or by organisations which have government support. Among the periodicals are ‘Foreign Trade News Bulletin’, ‘Gazette of the United Republic of Tanzania’, ‘Jenga’, ‘Mbioni’, ‘Mfanyakazi’, ‘Mlezi’, ‘Mwenge’, ‘Nchi Yetu’ and ‘Ukulima wa Kisasa’.
There are three well-organised private Christian publishing houses which publish Swahili periodicals. These include the fortnightly ‘Kiongozi’ (circulatlon 103,000) owned by the Roman Catholic Church, the quarterly ‘Sikiliza’ (100,000), published by the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the quarterly ‘Uhuru na Amani’ (10,000) published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
CENSORSHIP AND THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
Generally Tanzania has a good reputation when it comes to the treatment of its media personnel. There is no government censorship nor open intervention in the dissemination of news. But editors avoid publishing sensitive items which might embarrass the authorities particularly on major issues affecting the ruling Party. The training of Tanzanian journalists at Kivukoni College includes heavy emphasis on political orientation.
Journalists have been instrumental in the exposure of corruption. It was press reports on the General Agricultural Export Corporation which ultimately led to the trial of its top executives and a journalist on ‘Uhuru’ uncovered a massive theft of foreign exchange from the National Bank of Commerce. The reporter received Shs 5,000 reward. But the biggest accolade and Shs 20,000 was reserved for SHIHATA reporter Augustine Mbunda who singlehandedly pursued a story in which a Member of Parliament was found in illegal possession of 105 elephant tusks.
Until 1987 the English language ‘Sunday News’ had no competitor but the tables were turned when a local publisher Dr Anicet G. Leopold launched an independent weekly, the ‘African Baraza’. But the newspaper hit trouble with its first issue. Seasoned journalists said that one story had made critical comparisons between the governments of the first and second Presidents of Tanzania and police impounded all the copies of this one and only issue.
In 1988, however, another weekly English language newspaper the ‘Business Times’ was launched. This broke new ground. It is bold enough to criticise government policy and carry scoops that have eluded the existing newspapers.
Tanzania has few foreign correspondents. Most prefer to cover Tanzania from Nairobi. There was an outcry among foreign journalists when what amounts to compulsory licensing of all journalists was introduced. Foreign Journalists have to pay a prohibitively high price for press cards – 5hs 40,000 in hard currency. Local Journalists pay Shs 5,000.
Seven foreign news agencies have bureaux or representatives. They include the Soviet Agentsvo Pachati Novosti, TASS, the Inter-Press Service of Italy, Reuters and Newslink Africa of Britain, Xlnhua of China, Prensa Latina of Cuba and the Associated Press of the United States.
(Tanzania now has another English language newspaper, ‘Family Mirror’, a fortnightly, which is proving increasingly bold. It has been attacked by the Minister of Information as having displayed ‘enormous lack of professionalism.’ and as having abused democracy and to be lacking in objectivity’ – all of which it strongly contested. In a May 1990 issue it investigated (with names) corruption in land allocation; in June it published on its front page an ‘Open Letter’ to President Mwinyi in which it wrote of ‘the growing signs of d1scontent in our society’; in July 1990 it quoted from a BBC World Service broadcast in which Mr Oscar Kambona, the former Tanzanian Foreign Minister had spoken about the setting up of a ‘Tanzania Democratic Forum’ which was urging the immediate repeal of clauses 3 and 77 from Tanzania’s Constitution so as to 1egalise the emergence of parties other than the CCM. In the same issue it referred to ‘serious maladministration and an almost total apathy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs In Dar es Salaam’ – Editor)