Citizens' views on media freedoms

According to Afrobarometer, the majority of citizens (65%) agree that media should report on government mistakes and corruption while 3 out of 10 think that doing so harms the country.

And 8 out of 10 citizens (75%) think that media are effective in revealing government mistakes and corruption, while 2 out of 10 (18%) think they are not effective.

Half of citizens (53%) also think that media should be free to report on any story while 4 out of 10 think that government should be able to close down newspapers.

Although this over-arching support for media’s role as government watchdog has decreased slightly in recent years, it remains high.

Similarly, 7 out of 10 citizens think that media never or rarely abuse their freedoms by saying things they know are not true.

Citizens also express strong support for freedom of expression and information. Almost all citizens (95%) think that citizens should be free to criticize government when they believe it has done something wrong. 

The majority of citizens also support democracy more generally. Recent Sauti za Wananchi data (September 2016) show that 69% see democracy as preferable to any other kind form of government. This support is also shown in Afrobarometer’s latest dataset (2014) in which 79% said that democracy is their preferred type of government and 81% agree that they should choose their leaders during elections.

Access to information is also important to citizens. Eight out of ten citizens (77%) agree that ordinary citizens should have access to public information held by the government, while far fewer (23%) think that only civil servants should have access to that information.

Citizens are clear on why they value access to information; 80% agree that providing information to citizens would help to cut down on corruption while 20% think that public servants would just find new ways of hiding-wrong-doing.

In further support for their right to access government information, almost all citizens (92%) think that it is important for parliamentary sessions to be aired live and 8 out of 10 (79%) disapprove of the government’s decision to ban these broadcasts. Almost all citizens (88%) also agree that parliamentary broadcasts should be aired irrespective of costs while 12% agree that constraining expenditure in other areas is a good reason not to air parliamentary sessions.

These data were collated and shared by Twaweza as a new and potentially repressive Media Services Act is signed into law. They are drawn from the most recent Afrobarometer findings for Tanzania and various rounds of the Sauti za Wananchi mobile phone survey.

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