THE government of Tanzania has said that media outlets are free to criticise it as a way of solving problems or seeking solutions for challenges bedeviling the country.
Speaking during an interview with a local television station, Star Television, the Director of Information Services (MAELEZO), Dr Hassan Abbasi, said the government had no intention whatsoever to institute any legal action against a media house for publishing or broadcasting information that challenges the State.
Dr Abbasi who is also the government spokesperson said the Media Services Act, 2016 allows the media to challenge the government by offering alternatives on how best the State can solve problems facing Tanzanians.
“There is no any media house that will be punished for disseminating information that criticizes or challenges the government because the duty of the media is to inform the public,’’ he said.
However, he was firm that the government will not hesitate to take appropriate action against a media house that will act unprofessionally by blatantly disregarding the legislation in the best interest of the public.
Dr Abbasi added that it was equally important for media owners to exercise their freedom by publishing information that do not contravene the law and avoid disseminating seditious materials that are likely to instigate the public.
Responding to a question as to why the government slapped Mawio newspaper with a 24-month ban, the government spokesperson said the newspaper was banned not because it wrote negative stories against the government, but simply because it defied an order by the government by publishing information that aimed at mudslinging the former Heads of State.
According to him, if it was a matter of banning a newspaper because it published negative stories, then Mawio newspaper would have been slapped with a ban long time ago, because it is well known for publishing negative articles.
Last week, Mawio, became the first newspaper to face the wrath of the law. The move came a day after the government warned media houses, especially newspapers against dragging the names of former presidents into the mineral concentrates saga.
And, that is exactly what the newspaper did, defying the order by publishing an article linking former presidents Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete to the mineral sand saga, thereby facing a two year ban.
On press freedom, Dr Abbasi said there was need for media stakeholders to understand what it means, as well as going through the newly enacted Media Services Act, 2016.
According to him, the implementation of the new legislation had already started among them, issuing accreditation to journalists so that non-professionals can go to school.