The sack of a Tanzanian minister after condemning TV intrusion

The sack of a Tanzanian minister after condemning TV intrusion

The  Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Thursday sacked his information minister after he opposed   an ally of the president who had stormed into a television station accompanied by armed men.

The sacking comes amid an uproar over the event at one of Tanzania’s main private broadcasters, seen as yet another example of the restriction of basic freedoms since Magufuli came to power in October last year.

A comment from the presidency did not give any reason for the firing of Information Minister Nape Nnauye, merely announced that a new minister had been elected.

Moreover on Friday, Dar es Salaam regional commissioner Paul Makonda stormed into the offices of the Clouds FM Media Group with six armed men to request the airing of a muckraking video aimed at undermining a popular local pastor with whom Makonda has a dispute.

 The station refused to broadcast the video in which a woman claims to have had an illegitimate child with the pastor.

Presidential support 

While condemnation poured in from civil society and MPs, Magufuli offered support to his embattled ally.

“I, as president, wouldn’t let anyone tell me what to do. I decide who should be where. So you Makonda, do your job and ignore the rest,” he said.

Nnauye had visited the broadcaster in the wake of the incident, and launched an immediate probe which wrapped up Wednesday.

“I have the duty of protecting free media and freedom of expression in the country and I would not deserve to be in this position if I fail to do so. I will advise my bosses to take punitive measures against the regional commissioner,” he said.

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The probe team chairman, Deodatus Balile, said that Makonda had threatened station staff with blackmail and jail if they didn’t air the programme.

Magufuli, whose nickname “tingatinga” means “bulldozer” in Swahili, swept to power as a no-nonsense, corruption-busting, man-of-the-people.

However critics see a wide authoritarian streak at the core of his populism, as he acts on impulse regardless of due process or political niceties, while being intolerant to any dissent.

“Since the inauguration of President Magufuli, attacks on freedom of the press have increased in a worrying manner,” said Clea Kahn-Sriber, Africa head at pressure group Reporters Without Borders, known by its French acronym RSF.

“To legitimise this type of attitude towards the media is to undermine the fundamental freedoms of all Tanzanians to express themselves and to be informed freely,” she said.

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