Suluhu departs from Magufuli’s hard stance with new Covid response plan and media ban

By BBC On Tue, 6 Apr, 2021 15:24 | < 1 min read
Samia Suluhu, 61, to become Tanzania's Africa’s first female President. [PHOTO | FILE]
New Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu. PHOTO | FILE

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 the government on anti-coronavirus measures.

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.

The president also hinted at major potential changes in the country’s foreign policy – directing the new foreign affairs minister, Liberata Mulamula, to set about mending international relations and saying “no country can walk alone. Cooperation is the only way”.

Media bans lifted

Suluhu 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.

Speaking during the swearing-in of new ministers and permanent secretaries, President Samia said government must not be seen to curtail media freedoms.

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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