Tanzanian watchdogs on a leash – a qualitative research of journalists’ possibilities and obstacles in a new democracy

Start date: 13 May, 2014 End date: 25 June, 2014 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A26854 Institutions: University of Southern Denmark (SDU), Denmark Grant recipient: Freja Czajkovski Total grant: 12,000 DKK



This study explores the obstacles and possibilities that journalists encounter in a developing country with a nascent democracy.

In the beginning of the 1990s many Sub-Saharan African countries, including Tanzania, transitioned from a one-party system to a multi-party system and started development towards a democratic state. To build up a democracy, it is essential that journalists have a free working environment to make sure citizens, through fair and objective journalism, can take an informed choice when they stand at the ballot box. Additionally they serve as watchdogs in the society - keeping an eye on the political decision makers between elections while giving regular citizens a voice.

20 years after the first democratic election Tanzania is still facing problems when it comes to democracy and freedom of the press. This study therefore aims to cover in particular, which obstacles and possibilities Tanzanian journalists face in their everyday work. The focus is on Tanzania as a case study that represents similar countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Qualitative interviews were conducted in Tanzania amongst local working journalists. These interviews make up the primary empirical data.

The findings suggest that Tanzanian journalists face obstacles in their work. One of the main obstacles comes from within the country’s legal system. Laws that give a minister the power to close down media outlets without consulting others along with the government’s right to detain and deny journalist information and access are in use. Other obstacles are represented by advertiser’s power over the media, media owners’ economic and political agendas, inadequate salaries, threats, violence and sources withholding information, however mobile phones and new media also represent new possibilities in the journalists work.

The study concludes that it will takes changes and time before the Tanzanian journalists fully can fulfil their role in the democratic society as the Tanzanian watch dog is still on a leash. Future research will show how tightly or loosely that leash is held.