By David Kobe, Advocacy and campaigns Lead for CIVICUS
When President Samia Suluhu Hassan took over as President of Tanzania on 19 March 2021, following the death of President John Magufuli, civil society in Tanzania was under siege. Freedoms of expression, assembly and association were at an all-time low with restrictive policies and laws in place, stifling the ability of the media and civil society to raise concerns over human rights issues.
At the time President Hassan took power in Tanzania, more than 1,000 kilometers away in Zambia, the human rights situation was similar. Respect for fundamental freedoms was appreciably deteriorating in the run-up to the August 2021 election, with the opposition being targeted and concerns about the potential for electoral violence. The election however resulted in a change of government, with Hakainde Hichilema becoming the new president.
In Tanzania, between 2015 and 2020, at least four laws harming freedom of expression were introduced, including regulations that imposed exorbitant fees on bloggers and social media users. The Tanzanian authorities also imposed a ban on several media outlets and passed at least four laws restricting freedom of association. Ahead of the 2020 election, parliament amended the Political Parties Act, given the authorities extensive powers to deregister political parties. This was followed by violence, arrests, attacks and intimidation of members of the opposition.
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