Tanzania said Thursday it was lifting a ban on four newspapers and opening “a new chapter” with the media, as President Samia Suluhu Hassan attempts to break with some of the policies of her autocratic predecessor.
The Swahili-language newspapers, including Daima — a daily owned by jailed opposition leader Freeman Mbowe — were banned between 2016 and 2020 during the authoritarian rule of former President John Magufuli.
“The intention of the current government is to create good relations with the media and as a start, I will reissue licences of four newspapers,” Information Minister Nape Nnauye said at a meeting with editors.
“Their punishment is enough.”
Mwanahalisi, a weekly newspaper, was shut after publishing a letter from a reader containing “insults” against Magufuli and his government.
Daima was banned just before the 2020 general election for allegedly flouting journalistic ethics.
Two other newspapers, Mawio and Mseto, were suspended for reporting on government corruption.
Since Hassan took power in March last year, following Magufuli’s death, she has sought to break with some of the policies of her predecessor, who was nicknamed “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style.
She reached out to the opposition, vowing to defend democracy and basic freedoms, and reopened media outlets that were banned under Magufuli.
But the arrest last July of Mbowe, the leader of the main opposition party Chadema, on terrorism charges dimmed hopes she would turn the page on Magufuli’s rule.
Hassan’s government also slapped a two-week ban on Uhuru, the newspaper owned by the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, last year after it published a front-page story claiming she was not considering running for the presidency in 2025.
But on Thursday, the information minister said Hassan was keen to create an “enabling environment for the media.”
“She has directed me to meet the journalists, share our views and listen to your concerns to improve the media environment,” he said.