As the world marks the International Press Freedom day 2022, Twaweza in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda shares from a citizens’ perspective the press freedom in East Africa.
Twaweza highlights citizens’ attitudes to the role and importance of the media in society. The data was collected between 2019 and 2021 by Afrobarometer and by Twaweza through its Sauti za Wananchi initiative.
Across East Africa, more citizens generally support media freedom than government control of media. In Uganda, according to the survey 57% of the citizens said the media should have freedom to work without government interference in 2020. This is up from 54% in 2019.
Similarly, in Tanzania, most support media freedom and limits on government powers to intervene. 81% agreed that criticism of leaders is a good thing saying it helps stop them from making big mistakes. 54% according to the survey said that if a newspaper prints something factually incorrect, they should apologize and publish a correction.
But citizens believe strongly that media reporting on government mistakes and corruption is a good thing. In 2019, 80% of the Kenyans agreed that the media should constantly investigate and report gov’t mistakes and corruption. 78% in Tanzania agreed while 79% of the citizens in Uganda also agreed. A few percentage of the citizens according to the survey said too much reporting on mistakes and corruption only harms the country.
East Africans also strongly believe the media is currently free to report and comment on the news. Tanzanians more likely agreed that media is free to report and comment on news without gov’t interference. (78% supported this view compared to 78% in Kenya and 57% in Uganda).
Radio is still citizens’ main source of information, but TV and social media are growing (especially in Tz). Radio and TV are also the dominant sources of information in Kenya. Radio is used by all, but TV, internet, social media are dominated by the young, wealthy, urban and educated.
Citizens see social media overall as a good thing that helps people have more impact on politics. However, citizens also have concerns about the effect of social media on fake news and intolerance.
Most citizens think unrestricted access to the internet and social media should be protected, less so in Kenya. 44% said that unrestricted access to the internet and social media should be protected or regulated compared to the 54% and 55% in Tanzania and Uganda respectively.
Trust remains much higher in information from radio and TV than from social media. TV and radio have consistently been the most trusted across recent years, while trust in people has fallen
In Uganda, when the Coronavirus pandemic struck, people looked mainly to TV and radio for information. Similarly, in Tanzania, citizens seek information about Covid-19 vaccines mainly from radio and TV news.
And in Kenya, citizens still primarily use turn to TV and radio for news on election-related matters.
According to Twaweza’s Sauti za Wananchi data, both Kenyans and Tanzanians see media freedom and access to information as very important components of democracy. Independent media, freedom of expression and access to info are all seen as vital to democracy.