Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the ban of Tanzania’s leading newspaper, The Citizen, saying it is part of a series of attacks on freedom of expression by the government of president John Pombe Magufuli.
The Citizen was last week banned for seven days from circulation offline and online, having been accused of spreading false information about the devaluation of the Tanzanian shilling.
HRW highlighted previous suspensions on newspapers including the 2017 ban on four newspapers, and the 2016 Media Services Act which gives gives the government the power to restrict and limit the independence of the media.
‘‘This is all part of a wider pattern of repression targeting freedom of expression over the past few years including creating an excessively high fee to blog, criminalizing posting certain content online, fining TV stations, and prohibiting the publication of independent statistics without government permission.’‘
HRW warned that the actions of the government could prevent ‘people from having legitimate discussions about serious issues facing the country’.
Last year, several civil society organisations including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) , wrote a letter to Magufuli asking his government to end attacks on journalists and acknowledge the critical role that the civil society and independent media play in promoting peaceful coexistence.