There are multiple ways to distort news. One of the most effective is to get rid of the person who gathers it. It’s a harsher step than simply bellowing out untruths like Fox News but the latter often foreshadows the former.
Two weeks ago journalist Azory Gwanda was kidnapped and hasn’t been seen since. He was a reporter for a Swahili-language Tanzanian media company that was often critical of the current president, John Magufuli.
Gwanda’s employer is part of a large East Africa media group based in Nairobi, Nation Media, publisher of the region’s largest English-language newspaper, the Daily Nation.
Tanzania has become an increasingly dangerous place for journalists. Local journalists have been roughed up and jailed, and foreign journalists have been expelled. Almost a year ago the Committee to Protect Journalists signaled alarm a week after a year-long ban lifted on one major newspaper was followed by banning others.
Gwanda’s wife said she didn’t realize at first that he was being kidnapped. She told supporters that he had unexpectedly arrived where she was working and asked for their house keys.
He was a passenger in an unknown white Toyota and assured her that he would be gone for just a few days. She gave him the keys but when she later went home, their house had been ransacked.
Freedom of speech in Tanzania is being heavily suppressed by if not the authorities then by ardent supporters of the authorities. What’s particularly frightening is that these actions seem to be supported by the majority of the population, or at least given a pass.
Starting around midyear 2016 the Magufuli government legislated then issued regulations that raised the eyebrows of many journalist organizations, but the public seemed fully behind this growing censorship.
The current dictatorial president is widely admired especially for actions that he’s taken against other long-serving corrupt officials.
Fake news tangles itself. In March Fox News reported that while signing one of his first attempted travel bans Donald Trump praised Magufuli as a decisive leader thereby implicitly endorsing Magufuli’s autocratic and dictatorial actions.
(Trump hadn’t done so, although indeed may have had he known that Tanzania was in Africa.)
The state supported Tanzania media immediately picked up and re-reported the story, but Magufuli apparently doesn’t like being associated with Trump. A bunch of Tanzanian journalists were fired and others detained by police for having reported the Fox News story.
I guess Magufuli was saying his brand of autocracy is right, and Trump’s is wrong.
Freedom of speech in Tanzania is shrinking rapidly. Freedom of speech in America is creating more lies than ever. The two doth tango.