The right of access to information is recognised as a fundamental
human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article
9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and is
legally binding under Article 19 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights. More importantly, Article 18 of the
Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania guarantees
the right to access to information. In 2016, Parliament passed
an Access to Information Act which is intended to ensure the
enforcement of this right.
The right to information is essential as it facilitates the exercise
of the full range of other human rights. In particular, the
right underscores the essence of an informed public through
guaranteeing citizens’ access to public information, empowering
people to call their governments to account for their actions.
However, it is feared that the Tanzanian Access to Information
Act may actually limit access.
The restriction of access to information may take the form of
limiting access to governmental or official information, as well
as harassment of the press, which may lead to censorship. Such
restrictions may be imposed by political authorities or by private
In Tanzania, efforts to legislate access to information can be dated
back to the early 1990s. Notable forward progress was made
in the 2000s—firstly with policy reforms in the broadcasting
sector, followed by the Government introducing a draft Freedom
of Information Bill in 2006. The process of developing access
to information legislation stalled until 2015, when the Access
to Information Act and the Media Services Act were issued by
However, concerns were raised about both Acts which, according
to stakeholders’ analysis, carried some provisions which were
likely to infringe on principles of freedom of speech, media
freedom and free flow of information. In fact, both Bills were
deemed by some critics as being more draconian than the 2015
Cybercrimes and Statistics Acts. These two laws, which influence
how Tanzanians access and share information, were widely
opposed by stakeholders for their potential of curtailing people’s
rights to access to information and freedom of expression.
The Media Services Act, for instance, contains provisions that
would weaken the independence of the media and subsequently
limit citizens’ access to information. Under the Access to
information Act, the wrongful release of information is punishable
by 3 – 5 years imprisonment. In contrast, wrongful withholding
of information is not punishable, providing information holders
with an incentive to refuse the provision of information.
The Access to Information Act was ideally meant to operationalise
and enforce provisions of Article 18 of the country’s Constitution,
however no regulations have been gazetted as of mid-July this


Little has been done with respect to publicly promoting
the Access to Information Act (neither its contents nor its
implementation), neither by the government nor by civil society.
This may be the reason why most public servants behave in the
manner this study reports, and probably why the general public
does not know that they have a right to access information on
the activities of both the Government and private bodies which
utilise public funds.

Rationale and ReseaRch
MISA Tanzania joined other MISA Chapters to participate in the
study which seeks to establish the most open and most secretive
public institutions in Southern Africa. The study was conducted
from 11th July to 10th August 2017. All eight institutions
were picked randomly, depending on the relevance of their
mandated work. Most were surveyed for the first time since their
establishment. Information request letters were hand-delivered
and emails were sent to the selected institutions. The study also
assessed the quality of these institutions’ websites—whether
they contain relevant and useful information for the public.
The following public institutions were surveyed:
1. National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF)
2. Bank of Tanzania (BOT)
3. Prevention and Combating Corruption Bureau (PCCB)
4. Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA)
5. Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU)
6. Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFS)
7. Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC)
8. Tanzania Insurance Regulatory Authority (TIRA)

Limitations of the Study


Limited financial and manpower resources.
Time: 21 days were allocated for the study which seems to be
too little time for some busy organisations; regardless of the
fact that several public officials seemed inattentive.
Lack of understanding of the importance of access to
information by some public officials.

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