RIGHTS UNDER FIRE
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.