- These actions are part of "a disconcerting pattern of intimidation toward opposition members, civil society, and media outlets."
- On Tuesday, the Tanzanian government revoked Tanzania Daima's license and banned it from publishing.
- That same day, opposition leader Zitto Kabwe was arrested.
The US Embassy in Tanzania has issued a declaration of concern over the government of Tanzania’s steps to crush democracy. The actions, according to the statement issued on Thursday, included arresting opposition party leaders in their internal meetings and revoking an opposition newspaper’s media license.
These actions are part of “a disconcerting pattern of intimidation toward opposition members, civil society, and media outlets,” the embassy said. “The Rights to Peaceful Assembly and Freedom of Expression are enshrined in the Tanzanian Constitution, and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
“The U.S. Embassy proudly supports freedom of expression and inclusive political participation in all formats,” it said. The statement came out two days after the Tanzania Daima newspaper’s license was revoked, and ACT party leaders, as well as staff of the Center for Human Rights Defenders (THRDC) were arrested.
“The Embassy of the United States of America expresses concern over recent actions by the Government of Tanzania to stifle democratic norms, including the arrest of political opposition figures during a closed party meeting and the revocation of the media license of an opposition party newspaper,” it began.
Tanzania Daima Newspaper License Revoked
On Tuesday this week, the Tanzanian government banned the Tanzania Daima newspaper, which was being published and distributed anywhere in the country and abroad, following the decision to suspend the publication and distribution of the daily newspaper.
According to the country’s Department of Information, the action is a result of “excessive and repetitive” violations of the laws of the country and the ethics of journalism.
“Efforts to warn, direct and remind the newspaper’s editors to comply with licensing terms for more than a year have failed to bear fruits due to stubbornness, controversy, and contempt for the country’s authorities and at times an obvious evil intent,” the statement reads in part.
In 2017, the newspaper was closed for 90 days. “They also have the opportunity in accordance with section 10 (1) of the information services Act 2016 to appeal to the responsible minister for information within 30 days if they are not satisfied with this decision,” the statement adds.
Arrest of Zitto Kabwe and ACT Leaders
On Tuesday of this week, Zitto Kabwe, leader of the opposition ACT party, and seven of his colleagues, were arrested at a local rally in Kilwa, southern Tanzania. Initially, the leaders were arrested on suspicion of marching without a permit on their way to a meeting.
However, allegations against them have changed, and are now being sued for threatening the breach of peace. They were all released last Wednesday after being in custody, and will have to report to the police again in July.
Since 2016, opposition parties in the country have been banned from holding public meetings and protests. The incident of arrests of ACT leaders has raised concerns about whether opponents will be given equal opportunity and freedom to reach the people when Tanzania heads to the General Election in October this year.