State of the media in Southern Africa - 2003
of Habari Corporation was in 2001 stripped of his citizenship on allegation that he is a Rwandese
even though the Rwanda government said he was not. He is yet to regain his citizenship even
after applying.
The parliament on its part has continued to harass through interrogations all those who dare
criticize some of its decisions and the behavior of some MPs. Joyce Mhaville, Director of
Radio One and Independent Television (ITV) was grilled for two hours by the Parliamentary
Immunities, Powers and Privileges Committee for allowing an activist to attack the moral
behavior of some MPs through the radio she manages. In Zanzibar, members of the House of
Representatives questioned Sarah Mosi, a correspondent for Majira newspaper for over two
hours and later banned her from reporting parliamentary sessions for one year allegedly for
“misreporting parliamentary sessions”.
There were however, generally few cases of harassment and intimidation of journalists recorded
last year compared to previous years.
Media diversity and pluralism
The growth of journalism in Tanzania in the past decade is truly phenomenal. From only five
state-owned newspapers and one radio station in 1992, the industry has now broadened to include 18 daily papers, 53 weeklies and 42 other regular titles. There are also 26 radio stations, 15
television stations and 20 cable operators scattered throughout the country.
The number of journalists has also increased from 230 in 1990 to around 3,000 today, while the
total labor force in the booming industry is now estimated at 10,000.
The proliferation of private media and the resultant competition has expanded consumer choices
for news and information. Equally important, recent studies indicate wide reliance of citizens on
the media for news and information on public affairs. A study by Liviga (2001) and MISA (2003)
indicates that the majority of Tanzanians depend on the radio (81.5%) for news and information
on public affairs, 63.1% depend on the newspapers, while only 5.3 % get political news and
information through television.
While the important role played by the media in the current political dispensation cannot be
underestimated, there is also increasing awareness that the media are not necessarily objective
or correct in their portrayal of reality. Readers, viewers and listeners are concerned that journalists get too much too wrong too often; that they are not factually accurate and often perceived to be unfair. The public respects the professional and technical skills press women and
men bring to their craft, but fears that their reliance on the old concept of news that they have
adopted and follow blindly, causes an imbalance in reporting. Vital issues like the debt burden,
rising poverty, foreignization of public properties, the agony of education, the energy crisis,
state brutality, the environment and the AIDS/HIV pandemic are neglected in favour of sensationalism and scandal.
The problem appears to be that radio and television stations are run on the whims of whoever
is the boss at the time. Lack of policy has allowed major advertisers and other players in big
business to influence the nature of products in the media regardless of the effects it might
have locally. Media owners have been allowed to commercialize news in order to make
money at the expense of social utility of information. The Government on its part, has also
continued to heavily tax newsprint and other media products in the same way that it taxes
raw materials for the beer industry, in disregard of the fact that media enterprises are primarily social service institutions.
So This Is Democracy? 2003


Media Institute of Southern Africa

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