When local journalist Tumaini
Msowoya (Mwananchi newspaper) read
the police report on a woman who was
wounded on her leg as being the result
of ordinary metal fracture, she could not
believe her eyes. She decided to follow
up the story at the Iringa regional hospital. What she found out was shocking.
“The stories aired around town were
that a police woman had shot another
woman on the leg on grounds of stealing
her husband. The hospital reports show
that the piece of metal extracted from
the leg was indeed a bullet and even the
wounded woman’s child, a boy of about
8 years, confirmed that her mother was
shot as they were walking along the
street”, says Msowoya.
When she ran the story, though under a pseudonym, a series of unlucky
events ensued. First, she began being
hunted by the police, then her home was
broken into while she was sleeping and
all her working tools (the laptop, a tape
recorder, a camera and other equipment
worth Tshs3 million (about USD 2000)
were taken. It was until she decided herself to go meet the Regional Police Commander when the dust settled.
In the period between 2010 and 2011,
a series of incidents involving journalists being harassed by the police force,
political leaders as well as the citizens
themselves have been a common feature
in Tanzania. Journalists have their tools
broken or taken away from them, arrested, threatened and/or being sued by
politicians for large sums of cash, most of
which will paralyse media houses if paid.

Several cases have been taken to and
resolved by the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) and others to court, many of
which take time to be ruled. One of the
recently resolved cases by the High Court
of Tanzania was that involving former
minister for good governance, Mr Wilson
Masilingi and the local Swahili newspaper, RAI and its contributing columnist
Prince Bagenda.
The court instructed the accused to
pay Mr Masilingi the some of Tshs15
million (about 9000 USD) as damages
for publishing malicious and defamatory statements against him. The court
ordered RAI newspaper to pay Tshs10
million and Mr Bagenda was supposed to
pay Tshs5 million in addition to publishing an apology on the first and second
pages of the same newspaper in words
that Mr Masilingi would be comfortable
with before they are published. The cash
compensation was to be done within 14
days after the ruling in addition to publishing the apology.
The incidences present another face
to a country that boasts itself as being
committed to respecting media freedom
and freedom of expression and being
praised by the international community.

Access to information
Tanzania is a signatory to international
laws on the right to access, receive
and impart information. Indeed, the
right to be informed and to access
and disseminate information is also
recognized in Article 18(1) and 18(2) of
the Constitution of Tanzania:

So This is Democracy • 2011


Select target paragraph3