Tanzania: Article 19 urged Safeguard Freedom of Expression for Fair and Free elections

By Own Correspondent – An Independent Human Rights Organisation (ARTICLE 19) is seriously concerned about ongoing violations of press freedom in the context of the upcoming general elections in Tanzania, set to take place on October 31st.

Key concerns include political parties harassing and intimidating journalists and election opinion pollsters, the state media not allocating a fair and equitable air time to all political candidates and the National Electoral Commission’s failure to enforce electoral laws, including those which protect freedom of expression.

“For the coming elections to be credible and democratic, the National Electoral Commission must ensure that all the political parties are given equal and fair access to state media, without discrimination,” said Henry Maina, Director ARTICLE 19 Kenya/Eastern Africa office.

“The Government has an obligation to ensure a pre-election climate devoid of intimidation and threats to all those participating in the process, including journalists” continued Maina.

ARTICLE19 also condemns threats by the Government to either ban or deregister the “Mwananchi” and “MwanaHalisi” newspapers for allegedly publishing materials saying the move is illegal.

The ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) recently banned most of its candidates, expect for the President, from participating in public debates hosted by state-run Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation. This ban contravenes the fundamental right to freedom of expression as required by the Tanzanian Constitution.

He said, a number of political parties continue to harass and bar journalist from covering their electoral campaigns. This adds to the catalogue of freedom of expression concerns which have come to characterise the pre-election period.

In the run up to the elections set for October 31st, ARTICLE 19 calls on the National Electoral Commission and the Zanzibar Electoral Commission to use the existing electoral laws to ensure that all political parties and actors safeguard freedom of expression and press freedom, and that those who violate the law are held accountable. Both commissions are charged with the management and regulation of the general elections.