Tanzania president hints at new response to Covid, reverses media ban

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has hinted at major changes in the country’s response to Covid-19 pandemic.

At a swearing in ceremony for ministers on Tuesday, she announced plans for an expert task force to advise government on anti-coronavirus measures.

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This departs from the hard stance by her predecessor John Magufuli, who often dismissed the presence of the coronavirus in Tanzania.

“Tanzania cannot isolate itself as an island in the fight against Covid-19,” said President Samia.

She also announced that bans slapped on a number of media outlets by her predecessor who died last month are now to be lifted.

“I understand that there are media organisations that have been closed – let them open and ensure they follow the law,” President Samia instructed national authorities.

She said media rules, regulations and penalties should be transparent, so that everyone knows what to expect should they do wrong – and so that the punishment is proportionate.

But some say this does not go far enough.

“We cannot operate in an environment where the same oppressive laws that were used to shut us down exist,” Maria Sarungi Tsehai, who runs local station Kwamza TV, told the BBC.

“We are not asking for favours – just laws. Real change will happen when we are legally free to operate without government intervention.”

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