Are Tanzanian media outlets misused?

By Elias MhegeraExperts suggests new regulations for media houses ownership-Recently there have been concerns in public circles on how the media outlets have been reporting the General Election campaigns and various utterances by politicians.

A veteran Dar es Salaam based journalist media consultant and trainer Lawrence Kilimwiko has suggested for new regulations in the ownership of media outlets in Tanzania.

He was commenting on the recent media review by stakeholders which found that this is one of the most awkward events when media outlets have been misused blatantly by some politicians.

On 28 September the media fraternity, representative of political parties, media consultants, religious representatives and activists met in Dar es Salaam to review election coverage by the media.

It was noted that the media has been biased in its coverage, and that the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) had an upper hand in terms of coverage, mainly positive so far.

According to Aggrey Oriwo, Country Director Synovate who presented findings of the survey that was conducted by his organization, there was a need for media owners and editors to rethink the role of media in the light of giving equitable coverage to all political parties, and civic groups involved in the election process.

Reacting to this report Kilimwiko suggested that in order to avoid biasness in the media there should be enacted new laws which requires all media outlets to be registered under the stock exchange.

“If all media outlets are registered in this way, their audit report will be transparent, the shareholder as well, this will avoid the current trend where some political bigwigs manipulate media outlets to the extent that they can cause chaos in the country,” said Kilimwiko.

Kilimwiko said that although this country is considered as relatively calm and peaceful, things might take a new event due to the fact the recent turn has been to attack personalities than policy issues.

So far some unethical editors and journalists have been subjected to harsh criticism after announcing results of who will win the presidency even without giving statistics and the methodology of how they have reached into such conclusions.

Recently religious clerics Christians and Muslims visited the opposition Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) and told him how they were saddened by unethical media coverage which is calculated to tarnish his private life.

Wellington Radu from the South African based Media Monitoring Africa organization said that before the xenophobic rising in South Africa some media outlets had started to castigate against ‘unwanted foreigners’ who they claimed were taking jobs that should have belonged to the indigenous South Africans.

Radu said that the desperate youths picked these sentiments and put them into action by harassing foreigners. He therefore warned Tanzanian journalists from inviting unwanted sentiments which are not only detrimental but also geared to suit selfish ends.

He reiterated the history of xenophobia in his country as being a product of unequal distribution of resource which caused some people to develop an intense dislike, hatred and fear of others who were perceived to be strangers.

He therefore castigated some media outlets which were condemned during the review workshop for having fuelled religious sentiments in their coverage and editorials, he advised Tanzanian journalists to reject such attitudes, prejudices and behaviours that exclude and vilify other persons.

Kenneth Simbaya who is the president of the Union of Tanzania Press Club (UTPC), said it was not enough to discuss only the dangers of mainstream media while there is danger of new media as well to cause havocs if it were misused.

“We need also to find ways to regulate blogs, telephone communications, chart forums, because they can as well send wrong information and cause chaos”

He was reacting to an experience from Kenya by Victor Bwire who said that a lot of confusing messages were sent by mobile phones which eventually led to violence which brought blood shed in that East African country in January 2008.

In general the forum came up with a strong statement against journalists and editors who are alleged to do “adulteration” of stories in order to further their ends.