HRW: Tanzania freedoms threatened ahead of elections


Human Rights Watch (HRW) warns that authorities in Tanzania are stepping up repression of opposition parties, nongovernmental organizations, and the media in the build-up to presidential elections later this year.

According to the right group, authorities have arrested at least 17 opposition party members and critics of the government since mid-June. During the same time, one rights group has been suspended while the license of another was cancelled and several blocked from observing the upcoming election. HRW says authorities have also imposed new restrictions on the media due to their affiliation with opposition groups and others for reporting on Covid-19.

HRW warns of pre-election repression

“It’s no coincidence that the Tanzanian government has increased its repression of the opposition, activists groups, and the media so close to the elections,” said Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of upholding the right to free expression at this critical time, authorities have instead adopted measures that raise concerns about the elections being free and fair.”

Human Rights Watch lists a series of repressive tactics used by Tanzanian authorities ahead of October’s election – including the arrest of members from opposition parties, such as ACT-Wazalendo Party and Chadema.

In July, Muslim leader, Issa Ponda, was arrested and held for nine days after he held a news conference calling for free and fair elections.

The government has also ramped up its efforts against the free press, imposing new restrictions that ban Tanzanian broadcasters from working with foreign broadcasters and others that limit freedom of expression online. Authorities have also fined media outlets for covering sensitive topics, such as political opposition and the coronavirus outbreak.

President John Magufuli insists Covid-19 is no longer present in Tanzania.

Tanzania heads to the polls on October 28 with Magufuli widely expected to secure a second term in power.

Featured image: “President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania makes his address at the 17th Summit of EAC Heads of State” flickr photo by Paul Kagame shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license


About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.