Dr Mwakyembe who yesterday addressed senior leaders and officials under the Ministry here, the first time after taking over from his immediate predecessor, Mr Nape Nnauye, said that despite
notable ‘success stories’ the ministry still faces “challenges that must be turned into opportunities.”
He said the government had approved two laws, namely, the Access to Information Act 2015 and Media Service Act 2016; but both didn’t go down well with critics – most branding them “draconian.” Tanzania Standard Newspapers (TSN) Deputy Managing Editor Ms Tuma Abdallah and TBC Director General Dr Ayub Rioba also attended the meeting.
“These laws are meant to improve the media fraternity now rapidly growing in Africa ... they do not target specific groups, individuals or companies,” he said.
Observers and stakeholders have since raised concern over the welfare of artistes, now increasingly facing pirate attacks – which come with heavy financial losses and lost opportunities to contribute to the national development effort. Meanwhile, media stakeholders are consistently worried about the fate of press freedom in the wake of the new pieces of legislation.
But the new minister – himself a former practicing journalist with the country’s premiere news agency, Shihata -- said he wouldn’t make decisions which could affect the industry without consultations.
“We are going to implement the laws … we’ve already established online portals allowing ‘state-citizen’ dialogue and easy access to information. But state spokespersons must exhibit reforms without delay … within a short,” Dr Mwakyembe said.
However, he announced he would first focus on strengthening Kiswahili as a national language. For a start, he plans to engage the ministry with briefs on foreign relation and education to ensure all national leaders use Kiswahili language during international conferences.
“There must be a sufficient number of trained Tanzanians to engage fully in translation as a career,” he said, noting that Kiswahili was the second widely spoken language in Africa after Arabic – and tenth largest across the world from a crop of 6,000-odd globally renown tongues.
In addition, the minister said he would embark on fundamental reforms to ensure intellectual property of local artists was preserved. “We will work on our copyright law … alongside international laws to prevent piracy” he noted.
Deputy minister Ms Annastazia Wambura informed the minister that piracy was among major challenges holding back progress in promoting local artists’ work – intimating that the “ministry was struggling” against many odds, fragmentation of laws chief among them.
“We have laws which need to overhauling … in particular we are collecting public opinion on the two policies touching on culture and arts.” she hinted. On his part, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Prof Elisante Ole Gabriel, assured Dr, Mwakyembe he had “a good team we can trust.”
He noted that following the government’s move to Dodoma, 25 of the ministry’s officials were already relocated, with more to follow later this year. “But we’re facing ‘budget’ challenges … still, our plan is to ensure we build our own structure in the new capital in the next two years,” he added.