OUR VIEW­POINT

RIGHTS UN­DER FIRE

The Witness - - OPINION -

IT’S hard to say whether coun­tries like Tan­za­nia take their cue from U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in their at­ti­tude to the me­dia, or vice versa.

On Wed­nes­day, in his lat­est hissy fit over at­tempts to get any sense out of him at his so-called press brief­ings, Trump with­drew the White House ac­cred­i­ta­tion of CNN re­porter Jim Acosta for hav­ing the temer­ity to in­sist on an­swers to a ques­tion about the im­mi­gra­tion car­a­van from cen­tral Amer­ica.

Also on Wed­nes­day, Tan­za­nian im­mi­gra­tion po­lice ar­rested for­mer Wit­ness ed­i­tor An­gela Quin­tal at her ho­tel in Dar es Salaam, and dragged her and a Kenyan col­league off for in­ter­ro­ga­tion. Quin­tal is the Africa pro­gramme co-or­di­na­tor for the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists. More than 60 jour­nal­ists are in prison in coun­tries across Africa, a very poor re­flec­tion of their com­mit­ment to free speech and democ­racy, and the CPJ does valu­able work to en­sure jour­nal­ists do not sim­ply “dis­ap­pear”.

Tan­za­nia is not one of the shin­ing lights of the con­ti­nent in its com­mit­ment to hu­man rights.

Ear­lier this year it passed a law to li­cence all blog­gers, so­cial-me­dia in­flu­encers and on­line plat­forms, whose con­tent will be mon­i­tored for “threats to na­tional se­cu­rity”.

In Septem­ber, the Tan­za­nian par­lia­ment made it il­le­gal to pub­lish in­for­ma­tion that con­tra­dicts of­fi­cial statis­tics, which in ef­fect will muz­zle any op­po­si­tion politi­cians, who are al­ready no strangers to be­ing im­pris­oned ar­bi­trar­ily.

Last week, Paul Makonda, Dar es Salaam’s re­gional com­mis­sioner, launched an anti-gay squad to round up “of­fend­ers”. Last year, two South Africans were ar­rested in Zanz­ibar for “pro­mot­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity”, and this week 10 men were ar­rested in the crack­down. And while the pres­i­dent has of­fi­cially dis­tanced him­self from the purge, he closed down Aids clin­ics last year on the pre­text that they pro­mote ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

This is a coun­try that is ob­vi­ously ripe for scru­tiny. The ha­rass­ment of Quin­tal and oth­ers shows how lit­tle this will be tol­er­ated.

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