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Global journalists’ association lashes out at Magufuli for media clampdown

Tanzania President John Pombe Magufuli, nicknamed the bulldozer for his abrasive leadership style, is in the spotlight following his regime’s confrontation with the media in recent times.

At the weekend, the Reporters Without Borders (RWF) association publicly condemned what it said was Tanzanian government’s harassment of journalists covering the coronavirus pandemic.

It followed a number of incidents in which the Tanzanian government’s clampdown on the media.

Here are some of the incidents:

1. Journalist Talib Ussi Hamad suspended – The scribe was suspended for six months by the government over a coronavirus story. Hamad, who works for Tanzania Daima, was ordered not to carry out any journalistic roles during that period.

“Writer Talib Ussi Hammad spread the story of a coronavirus patient without consent. This is also in contrary to the principles that govern the medical field,” read a statement by the Ministry of Media, Tourism and Culture.

2. Mwananchi online newspaper website licence suspended – The government suspended the operating licence for Mwananchi online, a Nation Media Group publication, for six months. The publication was also fined an equivalent of Sh220,000 for publishing a photo of President John Magufuli out shopping and surrounded by several people in apparent violation of the social distancing. Government said the photo was taken before the coronavirus crisis.

3. Cable TV operators Star Media, Multichoice Tanzania and Azam were fined an equivalent of Sh220,000 and ordered to broadcast an apology for seven days in a row for airing a report by Kenya’s Citizen TV that described President Magufuli as ‘stubborn’ for refusing to impose a total lockdown in the country.

4. Citizen TV was also forced to severally apologise to Magufuli for questioning the methods he had put in place to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

“Citizen TV would like to clarify that these words Ukaidi wa Magufuli (Magufuli’s defiance) were not used with the intention of misleading viewers on Magufuli’s stance or that of the Republic of Tanzania in the fight against the pandemic and that the said words were not appropriate,” the apology read in part.