International media coverage, including that of VOA’s Swahili Service, has led the Tanzania Communication Regulation Authority (TCRA) to issue a series of clarifications, backpedaling on its initial announcement that had serious implications for freedom of information in the East African country.
In mid-August, authorities in Tanzania banned domestic media from broadcasting foreign content without government permission – including that produced by VOA. The rules also demand the presence of a government official when a foreign journalist is covering a local story and require that local journalists working with foreign reporters have a government minder.
The announcement had an immediate chilling effect — some USAGM affiliate stations promptly ceased carrying internationally produced programs. Acting VOA Director Elez Biberaj said this is the first time any East African government has made such a brazen move to restrict press freedom and warned that if it is not reversed, the Tanzanian people will be denied important information as they prepare for the general election.
Although the TCRA has announced that local stations can continue to carry content from international media, it is developing a permitting process to do so. USAGM will continue to monitor the situation in Tanzania and is prepared to shore up alternative means of distribution should affiliates be prevented from carrying VOA content.