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Tanzania civil society urges govt to respect basic freedoms

By AFP

Added 2nd March 2017 01:09 PM

Since taking office in 2015, President John Magufuli has been accused of heavy-handed and authoritarian rule and of passing laws limiting fundamental rights

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Tanzanian riot police stand guard during a celebration in Dar es Salaam in 2015/AFP

Since taking office in 2015, President John Magufuli has been accused of heavy-handed and authoritarian rule and of passing laws limiting fundamental rights

Tanzanian civil society organisations have launched a year-long campaign calling on the government to respect freedom of expression and assembly.

Launched on Wednesday, the campaign "seeks to safeguard the freedoms of assembly and expression," said a statement from Tanzania's Legal and Human Rights Centre, one of the eight organisations behind the move.

"Without freedom of expression and freedom of assembly there can be no development," they said of the campaign which involves putting on seminars, discussions and debates.

Since taking office in 2015, President John Magufuli has been accused of heavy-handed and authoritarian rule and of passing laws limiting fundamental rights.

One such law is the 2016 Media Services Act which restricts the activities of journalists, bloggers and users of social media, which is currently being challenged in court, with civil society groups saying it undermines press freedom and free speech.

"We recommend that the above laws be reviewed and reformed so as to ensure that they comply with Constitutional and international standards," they said.

They also said there had been a "two-pronged attack" on freedom of assembly by the government and police.

"People must be allowed to peacefully assemble and associate with others so that they can share their opinions on issues affecting their lives," the groups said.

Public demonstrations and political rallies have been repeatedly blocked or broken up under Magufuli who has demonstrated little patience with dissent.

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