Social media, transparency and freedom of expression : an empirical analysis on the triad’s contribution to good governance practices in Tanzania

Mwainyekule, Leah Henry

September 2022

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© 2022 Leah Henry Mwainyekule. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This study investigates social media’s contribution to transparency and freedom of expression. Its main aim is to establish if online platforms contribute to the prerequisites of good governance, especially in countries where laws and regulations are restrictive.
With a focus on the United Republic of Tanzania, the study explores how different government administrations have been enacting and implementing different laws to control the flow of communication. Special emphasis is on the period 2015-2020, in which Tanzania experienced a shrinking space of the media landscape, causing people to turn to social media platforms for information instead of the mainstream media.
A mixed-methods research approach guided the investigation. The data includes accounts derived from interviews conducted with Tanzania media stakeholders, most of them being of the view that the media landscape, specifically transparency and freedom of expression, had shrunk significantly during the period 2015-2020. They admit that during this time social media platforms had become the preference for most people to obtain news from, regardless of whether the news was genuine or fake. Furthermore, the findings of this study suggest that while most Tanzanians preferred a democratic country, deterioration of freedom of the press, freedom of civil society organisations and freedom of the opposition to function had become worse than in a few years before. On the other hand, however, the majority of Tanzanians, regardless of their age, felt that people who criticised the president should be arrested.
Following these findings, this study has also interrogated the concept of respect in African culture and how it can be misused to restrict transparency and freedom of expression. I, therefore, argue that despite the misinformation, disinformation and fake news, social media has a significant contribution to transparency and freedom of expression, especially in those places where these good governance prerequisites are restricted.

Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, The University of Hull
Carter, Denise; Ornella, Alexander D.
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