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East & Central Africa Politics Regional

Policy Twist; Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu on Media and COVID19

Arans Tabaruka
Tanzania could welcome the COVID policy twist to avert denial

Tanzania’s new president Suluhu Hassan appears to be taking a new twist, a scientific approach to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan confirmed she will form a technical committee to advise her about the scope of COVID-19 infections in the country and how to respond to the pandemic.

COVID-19 is “not something we should be quiet about or refuse flatly or accept without doing a scientific examination,” Hassan said in Swahili.

She said the country would embark on medical research that will help identify the scope of the problem and advise about what the world is recommending in addition to expertise.

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan

This draws a critical line over her predecessor Pombe Magufuli’s controversial stances on COVID-19 and the media.

Without further changes related to COVID-19 policies, her remarks stood in contrast to the position of the late president Pombe Magufuli, who was Africa’s most prominent COVID-19 sceptic.

He urged Tanzanians to shun mask-wearing and denounced vaccines as a Western conspiracy, frustrating the World Health Organization. Tanzania stopped reporting coronavirus data in May 2020.

She too used the same address on Tuesday to order media houses closed during her predecessor’s rule to be reopened calling for regional encouragement of freedom of expression.

“I am hearing some media outlets; mobile televisions had been banned. I want those media allowed to operate but as per the laws of this country. There is no need to give them the pleasure to say we are suppressing press freedom,” Hassan said.

The Tanzanian government has faced criticism over censorship through banning or suspending at least six newspapers for content deemed critical.

Key of these are Tanzania’s major English-language daily newspaper, The Citizen.

Last year, Magufuli’s government suspended a newspaper associated with the country’s leading opposition politician Freeman Mbowe.

Weeks after President Magufuli’s death, President Samia Suluhu Hassan has taken on new twists especially in addressing the most controversies of her predecessor’s authoritarian-leaning style of leadership after getting through a smooth transition process.

Her ascension to power as the sixth president of Tanzania will finish out Magufuli’s term, which ends in 2025.

The new leadership has been passing through a period of filling the gaps that were mostly criticized during Magufuli’s term. Speaking at Magufuli’s funeral, the new president told Tanzanians there was nothing to worry about.

Arans Tabaruka
Arans Tabaruka

Editor and Africa correspondent

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