MONDAY October 23, 20223
By The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania
Al Jazeera will hone skills of Tanzanian journalists in safeguarding their own safety and enhancing investigative reporting.
Tanzania has in recent years seen numerous repressive laws enacted, denying the East African country of press freedom, civic space and the right to know and to be heard.
Some of the authoritarian legislations and regulations Tanzania Parliament hurriedly passed include Media Services Act, 2016; Access to Information Act, 2015; Cybercrime Act, 2015; Statistics Act, 2015; and Online Content Regulations for Electronic and Postal Communications Act, 2018.
Director of Al Jazeera Centre for Public Liberties and Human Rights (ACPLHR) Sami Alhaj said the Arab world’s independent media house was ready to establish an exchange programme for journalists to compare notes and improve their performance.
Alhaj tasked international media organisations to push for the Draft of the Universal Declaration for the Protection of Journalists to ensure the working environment media practitioners was safe.
He called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally releasetwo Al Jazeera journalists Rabie Al-Sheikh and Bahaa El-din Ibrahim arrested in August 2021 and February 2022, respectively.
Alhaj was responding to a request for the support from the Journalists Workers’ Union of Tanzania (JOWUTA) on the sidelines of the 77th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha, Tanzania.
With its headquarters in Doha, Qatar, Al Jazeera Media Network boasts of having 70 plus bureaus around the globe, with over 3,000 employees from more than 95 countries.
Al Jazeera has an extensive reach across the globe and is available in over 150 countries and territories in more than 430 million homes.
JOWUTA Chairman Mussa Juma told the side event that Tanzanian journalists were facing a myriad of challenges, including insecurity when they covered conflicts and that they were paid peanut wages.
“Most of the journalists lack expertise in investigative journalism and in disaster and war reportage,” Juma said.
“Most of the journalists lack expertise in investigative journalism and in disaster and war reportage,” Chairman of Journalists Workers’ Union of Tanzania Mussa Juma.
The ACPLHR and the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) jointly held the side event on Challenges of Media Freedom and the Safety of Journalists, Implications of Impunity for Perpetrators of Crimes against Journalists and the Rule of Law.
Besides JOWUTA, in attendance of the side event included representatives from Article 19, International Press Institute, Namibia Media Trust, Kenya Union of Journalists, Pan-African Lawyers Union and the Tanzania’s Ministry of Information, Communication and Information Technology.
IFJ Director for Africa Pa Louis Thomas underscore the need for freedom of expression and access to information saying they were the foundation of democracy in societies.
Thomas pleaded with African governments to refrain from allowing masterminds behind crimes against journalists to get off scot-free.
He advised the governments to consider preventing those on corridors of power from meddling with bodies that guarantee freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information.
“The legal status of the bodies should be clearly defined and their institutional autonomy and independence guaranteed and protected by law,” said Thomas as he cautioned that impunity undermined the judicial system.
A representative from Article 19 Alfred Bulakali said press freedom and access to information being the oxygen of democracy, African governments should embrace them.
Various papers were presented during the side event, including on The Digital Minefield, Harassment and Intimidation of Female Journalists Online, A Strategic Threat to Discredit the Work of Female Journalists, Weaponising the Law against Journalists and the Media, and A Challenge to Quality Journalism and The Safety of Journalists.
Assistant Director of Tanzania Information Services Department Rodney Thadeus said the government was improving the working environment for journalists as President Samia Suluhu Hassan directed immediately after she took over power.
Thadeus said owing to ongoing legal reforms in the industry, professional mistakes were no longer considered criminal offenses.
Advocate Mary Mwita and her learned fellow Mgusuhi Maswi from PALU observed in their presentations that female journalists were victims of gender discrimination in many media houses.
“There’s need for empowering female journalists, but more importantly putting place laws that will protect them,” Advocate Mwita suggested.
Kenya Union of Journalists Secretary Erick Oduor highlighted the need for devising guidelines to oversee journalists’ security and safety.
“We have a guideline in Kenya, we will keep in touch with JOWUTA and other stakeholders to ensure such guidelines are not only in place in their respective countries, but also improve working environment for journalists,” he saidΩ