Democratic freedoms are under siege -activists

02Mar 2017
Henry Mwangonde
The Guardian
Democratic freedoms are under siege -activists

A coalition of human rights activists yesterday launched a nine-month campaign to advocate for more space for freedom of expression and assembly which they say have been curtailed recently in the country.

TEF chairman Theophil Makunga

The Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC),Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF), Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP),Media Council of Tanzania (MCT),Policy Forum,Twaweza and Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRGG) said in a joint statement yesterday that there are various elements that shows democratic freedoms are under siege in the country.

They noted down the ban on political rallies,use of execessive power in dispersing rallies and the ban on any assembly as some of the indicators that freedom of assemby and expression are cutailed.

Reading the statement on behalf of the organisations TEF chairman Theophil Makunga said the government must safeguard the consititutional right especially when citizens seek to assemble for political and social issues.

“The police must adhere to law democratic laws that allow individuals to assemble and express themselves so that the word association is well understood and in uniform with international laws,” he said.

The acting director for LHRC Ezekiel Masanja Said the campaign is aimed at promoting the people’s understansing on human rights especially the right to express oneself.

He added that the campaign will help inform policy makers and other human rights stakeholders to review and make some amendments of some laws that have been enacted recently and seen as a threat to democratic principles.

Masanja said a recent study that was conducted by LHRC had established that democratic freedom especially to opposition parties had declined and has contributed to make the society miss information that would have helped bring changes that they want.

In his remarks an officer from CHRGG Constantine Luguli said every society had the right to report any threat to freedom so that they are worked on.

“All the rights depend on each other, if one is denied makes the other difficult to implement, it is the role of everyone to respect each other,defend human rights and rule of law,” he said.

Ever since President Magufuli came into power there has been a growing concern from human rights activists and opposition politicians who had accused his government of denying them a space to practice.

The move came after the announcement by President Magufuli that all political activities were banned until 2020.The head of State said in his announcement that this was the time for work.

They termed it as a setback to democratic freedom that the country had enjoyed for more than twenty years.