The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) last week addressed a letter to US President Barack Obama, pleading with him to use his influence to press the Tanzanian government to promote press freedom in his country, and end violations against the country’s free media mostly committed by security forces.
The letter, which is believed to have reached the US President shortly before his visit to the East African nation, asked him to discuss the critical importance of press freedom to economic development and democracy in his meetings with the Tanzanian head of state.
Obama ended the last leg of his African tour to Tanzania on Tuesday. However, it remains unclear whether Obama ever told President Jakaya Kikwete to stop unnecessarily harassing critical journalists.
It is also not clear on which grounds or criteria the White House used to choose the three countries Obama visited recently.
Apart from South Africa which still has a ‘minimum degree’ of press freedom, the other two countries, Senegal and Tanzania, are known to treat critical journalists unfairly.
Senegalese President Macky Sall said recently that he was tired of being lambasted by the newspapers, warning that he might take action against them. Though no repressive action has been taken so far, the highly-politicised Senegalese print media are well aware of the president’s ‘unhappiness’ about their reporting.
Several journalists and opposition figures in Senegal have recently been convicted of criminal libel and received prison terms or suspended sentences, the International Press Institute said. Sall promised last year to decriminalise such laws but he has failed to keep his promise.
In Tanzania, CPJ said it had documented a rise in threats and attacks against critical journalists. Tanzania cops, which are known the world over for their brutality and cruelty, have been at the forefront of several attacks against journalists, but most of them have been let off the hook or just not arrested.
Photo: Obama and Kikwete meeting in Dar-es-Salam