he year 2008 will remain indelible in the minds of most Tanzanians and, in particular, members of the media for one historic development: the arrest and appearance before the court
of former Minister of Finance Basil Mramba; former Minister of Energy and Minerals Daniel
Yona; and the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Gray Mgonja. All
three are facing eight similar charges that include, among others, the misuse of power that led
the country to lose US$10 million.

Before the three appeared before the court, 20 other high profile personalities – including
businesspeople; a treasurer of the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), in the western
Region of Kigoma; and former officials from the Central Bank – were arrested and appeared in
court on charges of fraud and theft. The charges revolved around the embezzlement of US$130
million from the central bank, the Bank of Tanzania, through the use of fake companies.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has already warned that more high profile Tanzanians
will appear before the court to answer various charges, including corruption. With the exception of Mgonja, who remained behind bars for less than 10 days, the two former ministers and
20 others were remanded in custody for not less than 15 days before they were later released
under tough bail conditions.
An overview of the state of media freedom in Tanzania would have been incomplete without
highlighting these high profile court cases. This is because the arrest of the 23 people was the
culmination of excellent investigative reporting by a section of the Tanzanian media, which
started almost immediately after the inauguration in December 2005 of President Kikwete.
The word ‘section’ of the Tanzanian media has been used deliberately, because less than half of
the Tanzanian media was responsible for the crusade against grand corruption and other ills in
society, with the rest of the media outlets either sitting on the fence or embarking on the dirty
job of cleansing the culprits. This goes to explain why the Tanzania Media Workers’ Association (TAMWA) was very selective when it presented a handful of certificates to members of
the media that helped in the fight against corruption and other ills.

The state of media freedom
The government’s position as far as freedom of the media is concerned has remained much the
same as before: hostile. This is evident by the continued existence of the draconian 1976 Media
Law that was borrowed from the British colonial government. That the Tanzanian media has
been able to survive 16 years after the re-introduction of the multiparty system in the country,
even in cases where they exposed scandals both in the government and the ruling party, has
not been due to the protection of media freedom from the law, but rather political support,
especially from former presidents Mwinyi, Mkapa and now Kikwete.
For instance, when the managing editor of the Swahili weekly, Mwanahalisi, Saed Kubenea,
was attacked in his office and had acid thrown in his eyes, President Kikwete was one of the
first people to console him at his bedside at Dar es Salaam’s National Muhimbili Hospital.
The following day, the president called on the media to leave no stone unturned in exposing
whatever ills they came across without fear. It was, however, due to the lack of legislation to
protect media freedom in Tanzania that a few months later the Minister for Culture, Information
and Sports, George Mkuchika, slapped a three-month suspension on the Mwanahalisi, through
the use of the 1976 Media Law, on the grounds that the weekly had debased the president
and his family. The minister’s act and argument revolved around a story which claimed that
Kikwete’s son, Ridhwani Kikwete, was being used by others to ensure that his father does not
So This Is Democracy? 2008


Media Institute of Southern Africa

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