Despite the mushrooming of media houses in Tanzania, the questions of freedom of press have never been fully achieved in Tanzania. Having the dozens of radio and television stations broadcasting to every turn of our country is not itself a tool to measure the status of freedom of press in the country. Many state agencies and Public officials are also still distressingly intolerant and suspicious of the media even in this day and age of transparency and free flow of information.
The freedom of media is guaranteed by several international and national human rights instruments like Article 25 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 18 (2) and (3) of the Constitution of Tanzania.The questions of how free is the media in Tanzania can easily be answered in different perspectives. While one week ago a two-day workshop, which discussesed issues related to the Freedom of Information. Several journalists and editors from mainland Tanzania, Unguja and Pemba islands attended the commemorations.
Participating organizations were the Tanzania Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA), the Forum of Mauritian Journalists, the Journalists’ Unions of Burundi, Uganda, Ethiopia and Rwanda, the Media Council of Tanzania. Among other things discussed during the commemorations were the safety and conducive working environment for journalists and professional ethics.It sounds gloomy that the group of journalist met in Zanzibar early this month had no time to deliberate on the questions of perceptions of state agencies and public officials towards the media and journalists in general. Recently investigative journalist of TBC Mr Jerry Muro was under a hot soup after being accused of corrupt practices.
Many people associated the issue of Jerry Muro with the effort by few public officials to threaten or to end the efforts of journalist to uncover corrupt practices. Early this year three journalists Asraji Mvungi- ITV, Juma Musa- Mwananchi communications and Elias Mbonea- Mtanzania were arrested by police officers receiving orders from District officials in Manyara. The drive was targeted to prevent the journalist from reporting the land conflict in Basutu/ Mulbadaw village. On another incidence this year in Loliondo, other journalists Mwanaidi Mkwizu- ITV, Abu Mkongo -ITV, Juma Musa -Mwananchi communications and Mashaka Mgeta- Nipashe were harassed by District officials in Ngorongoro only to stop them reporting the incidence of women demonstration in Loliondo. Ngorongoro District Commissioner required them to report to his office before doing anything in the District.
The order of the DC is against freedom of the media and the articles of the Constitution as it has been guaranteed by Article 18 of the Constitution of Tanzania, which states that, every person,(a) has a freedom of opinion and expression of his ideas;(b) has a right to seek, receive and impart or disseminate informationregardless of national frontiers;(c) has a right to freedom to communicate and a right of freedom frominterference with his right of communication;On 11/05/2010 ITV media house reported that, ITV reporter In Lake Zone region Mr Cosmas Makongo was unreasonably harassed and arrested by police officers ordered by District Commissioner of Ngara Col.Salum Nyakonji to stop him from gathering any information during the meeting with villagers.
The situation of illegal immigrants in Ngara simmered for two years now.The district officials have been busy lobbying the journalist not to make follow up of the existing situation taking place in Ngara, and for those who becomes loyal to their works like Cosmass Makongo, they have to be paid by receiving all sorts of harassment from state agencies. The victims proclaimed that the tense situation met them during the meeting just because they refused to be bribed by a certain district officials who requested them not to report any matter relating to the current saga in Ngara.That not being enough the said journalists in Ngara have been demanded by District officials to submit their citizenship particulars for scrutiny.We all need to congratulate all the villagers in Ngara who decided to stand against intolerable decisions of District officials of such a type.In this incidence the villagers decided to vacate the meeting ground and others reacted against the DC Col.Salum Nyakonji. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.
The acts of DC Nyakonji deprived not only the freedom of the media but also the freedom of villagers to hold opinion without interference and impart the same trough media.The media is therefore not free in Tanzania, the General Comment 25(57) of the United Nations Committee of Human Rights, while interpreting the provision of Article 25 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCP) stated that in order to ensure the full enjoyment of rights protected by Article 25, the free communication of information and ideas should comment on public issues without censorship or restraint. Citizens should have wide access to information and opportunity to disseminate the same through media without interference. The media will never be free if state agencies and public officials won’t change their perceptions towards journalists.