Media censorship in East Africa during elections

Document Type

Book Chapter






Toks Dele Oyedemi and René A. Smith

Publication (Name of Journal)

Media in Africa: Issues and Critiques


Graduate School of Media and Communications


Taylor & Francis


New York


Media and journalism are fundamentally important to open and transparent democratic processes. This is mainly because they provide information, opportunities and spaces through which people share ideas, aggregate opinion and participate in discourses key to democratic processes. Yet, recent developments show increasing state intolerance to media freedom. In the last ten years, three East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have had elections during which there have been serious concerns about media censorship and suppression. For example, the governments of President Uhuru Kenyatta in Kenya, and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda have at some point threatened the media and journalists and used legislations to silence those critical of their regimes. During the tenure of the late John Pombe Magufuli in Tanzania, the media suffered serious state censorship. Media houses operated under constant fear of closure or censure. Journalists were constantly harassed, detained or arrested. This chapter argues that political intolerance and clampdown on media freedom have affected the capacity of the media to provide information and space vital to open and participatory political and democratic processes. The chapter further contends that media censorship during elections is threat not only to media freedom but also freedom of expression, and democracy.