By Felix Kaiza
Two days down the year 2018 lane, five television stations are fined 60m/- by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) for a story that quoted the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) evaluation on last November local government by-elections as having been marred by human rights violations and excessive use of power by state organ agents.
The professional charge against the stations is failing to balance and verify the story, clicking all signals of intent to disrupt national unity and fuel civil disobedience.
I read and read the story again. I end up literally shedding tears on the Tanzania media along the similar lines that Jesus did on the walls of Jerusalem in his day.
Why my tears?
First, the person announcing the sentence, Mr. Joseph Mapunda, is a colleague and former TSN managing editor, now standing as chair to the TCRA Content Committee. I wonder what made his committee fail to be contented with the contents of a registered competent entity. Suppose the LHRC story sounded that all was well, would this also still require verification and balancing!?
Second, the TV stations in question stand divided. One group stands by the story, basing on the reliability and credibility of the LHRC. Another simply pleads “guilty”, begs for forgiveness and promises not to repeat the mistake (crime?). United, the five stations fall, so to say. Where is the converging point of the media in Tanzania? Is it the Media Council of Tanzania? Is it MOAT, gender-driven TAMWA or the unknown tombstone site of TAJA?
Third, I remember the charter which the late President Julius Nyerere handed to us in early February 1970 on the “freedom to publicize any failures in the community, by whomever they are committed.., the freedom to criticize the implementation of agreed policies either on its own or following complaints or suggestions from its readers.”
Finally, I look at myself and fellow old folklore. Indigenous knowledge has it that it is the old cock that teaches cockerels how to roost. What have we done? Today, we stand as the hangmen. Isn’t it? Destiny put aside, it could only take fellow Jews for Jesus to be crucified to death at the pleasure of the Roman rulers.
How different is the media working environment in Tanzania? The climate has to change before climate change continues to take its toll. Short of this, media investors will adjust themselves towards more business than news content to avoid conflicts with rulers to the detriment of society. A robust governance cannot co-exist with endangered media.