Currently, there are over 80 libel suits pending in high courts with damages demanded ranging
between 50 million to 10 billion Tanzania Shillings.
In Zanzibar, on October 27, 2003, the High Court ordered the publisher of Dira, the only private
weekly paper on the island, to pay 660million Tanzania Shillings in damages for defaming a son
and daughter of the Zanzibar President.
In February this year, in a record breaking libel suit, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, former OAU Secretary General was awarded damages worth 1,000,000,000 Tanzania Shillings by the High Court.
Dr Salim filed a libel suit against the East African weekly paper owned by the Nairobi based
Nation Group claiming that the paper defamed him in an article titled “ Can Dr Salim be serious?” published in September 2002.
In another case, a plaintiff who sued Shaba newspaper for defamation walked away with 40
million Tanzania Shillings in damages. Newspapers have been accused of publishing allegations;
many of them based on unnamed and dubious sources. Much as there are recalcitrant journalists
that have pushed everybody to the wall, there is serious concern that the hefty penalties being
imposed by the courts is politically motivated and geared to cripple the fragile media industry.


Defamation and political intimidation



ot a day goes by in Tanzania without sensational headlines about death splashed across
the front page of its tabloid newspapers. Colour photographs of grisly accidents or
violent crimes also feature prominently. And if there is no violence at home, editors
head to the Internet and search for horror news from abroad. The formula seems to sell newspapers. Those who do not subscribe to this method, resort to sensationalism, pornography,
falsehood, malicious rumouring and intrusion into privacy to the same end. While this grisly
formula and sensational journalism brings rising sales to the tabloids, leaders, lawmakers and
individuals are up in arms against the media. The volume of libel suits pending in the courts of
law and the hefty damages being imposed on the media is horrifying.


by Lawrence Kilimwiko
Lawrence Kilimwiko is a Media Consultant and Chairman of the Association of Journalists
and Media Workers (AJM).





State of the media in Southern Africa - 2003

Management has since gone to court to challenge the Zanzibar Newspapers, News Agency and
Books Act of 1988 which empowers the Minister responsible for information to ban any publication with impunity.
Even before the closure of Dira, its editor, Ali Nabwa, had his nationality stripped on allegation that he is from the Comores even though the Comoro authorities deny this. Nabwa is the
second journalist to be stripped his nationality in recent years. Jenerali Ulimwengu, chairman
So This Is Democracy? 2003


Media Institute of Southern Africa


On November 25th 2002 the Zanzibar government banned Dira, the only privately owned weekly
tabloid in the isles, ending the life of the most read newspaper in Zanzibar after only 51 issues.
Dira is accused of fomenting chaos, incitement and of creating hatred between the people and
their government.


Dira and its editor in trouble

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