SATURDAY May 7, 2022
By Patty Magubira
Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania
Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan has faulted the criteria used for measuring poverty, saying they are insincere and inconsiderate to lifestyles of people living in remote areas.
President Samia argues that not a single Tanzanian lives on $1 a day, let alone below $1, calling on local media to work with researchers in a bid to counter narratives which paint Africa as the continent that abounds with evils.
People living in remote areas are considered poor mainly because their lifestyles do not match with those of their urban counterparts, she observes.
President Samia cites a typical member of the Maasai pastoralist community living in a hut with insufficient light and ventilation, yet owning at least 500 cows.
A hunter-gatherer, who clads in wildlife animals’ skins, consumes about 10 organic fruits during breakfast, 10 others during lunch and dinner, respectively, while an urbanite cannot afford to buy such fruits in a supermarket.
“He may not put on a suit and may have a grass-thatched roof, but he does not live on $1 a day,” contends President Samia during the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day held at continental level in Arusha, Tanzania.
Africa though emits insignificant amount of carbon dioxide, greatly contributes to the carbon sink. President Samia is surprised that the continent is still blamed for the ozone layer damage mostly caused by developed countries.
“Defend the continent by building its positive image, lest we are labeled the hungriest while we are among largest producers of food,” she tells the journalists, stressing: “If you don’t speak for Africa, no one else will.”
President Samia exhorts journalists to refrain from stirring up conflicts which, she says, are mostly deliberately implanted by outsiders.
Peace is not only interwoven in African norms, values, traditions, cultures, politics and religions, but also attracts a number of well-wishing outsiders to socially integrate with the continent. “As you write about outdated traditions, promote the good ones as well,” she said.
Stories of several achievements Africa had registered since independence remain untold, as the focus of the media has since been on items that paint bad image of the continent.
The continent will continue being humiliated and seeing one coup after another if local journalists allow wages, trophies or prestige they earn from international outfits to override their work, she warns.
“Be proud of your countries. Tanzanians is hospitable and boasts arable land, rivers, the Indian Ocean and at least four climates a year, but you don’t write about this,” she wonders.
Social media though have of late become an important part of the people’s lives, most of the platforms were not as social as the naïve audience think, calling on the mainstream media to educate people on useful application of the same.
This year’s Journalism and Digital Siege theme is timely, as minors post nude pictures on social media just as witnesses of accidents parade gruesome pictures of dead bodies and casualties.
“With the exception of such abuses, social media platforms give us an opportunity for exercising our freedom as much as we can, including sympathising with each other in case of mishaps, agreeing or disagreeing with governments’ actions or even promoting or damaging unbecoming character in the society,” she explained, adding:
“African leaders should strive to cooperate with the media and improve the freedom of expression for the fourth estate to effectively contribute to bringing about sustainable socio-economic growth.”
While she has herself directed her administration to review unfriendly laws to the media, it is time for African journalists to consider reviving their plan of creating their continental union in a bid to speak for, brand and defend Africa, she says.
Mr Nape Nnauye, the Tanzania Minister for Information, Communication and ICTs, says the government is working on President Samia’s directives to revisit repressive media policies, laws, rules, procedures and regulations.
Wisdom is governing leaders during the transition period, he says, warning: “The repressive laws are still in place and binding, they have not been amended yet. Refrain from provoking the wisdom in use, lest we blame each other.”
The climate of fear and censorship gripped the Tanzania’s media fraternity since 2015 when a raft of repressive laws was imposed, stifling independent journalism and severely restricting activities of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and opposition parties.
Hate speeches, arbitrary arrests and threats to deregister media outlets and NGOs silenced journalists and discourses on human rights violation.
The government had either banned or suspended critical newspapers between 2015 and 2019 and used the 2015 Cybercrime Act to prosecute journalists and activists for social media posts.
Whoever intended to man a blog or a website had to cough up Sh2.1 million (over $900) to get a license as stipulated in the 2018 Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, which also restricts online content and permits surveillance of cybercafés without judicial oversight.
The government applied the 2015 Statistics Act to censor independent research and access to its information. The Media Services Act, 2016, also contravened the rights to expression and access to information enshrined in the Constitution.
The UNESCO Country Rrepresentative, Professor Herbert Izen, commends Tanzania for making significant progress in advancing press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information since President Samia came to power over a year ago.
“Technological advances should be underpinned by respect for freedom, privacy and the safety of journalists,” said Prof Izen, observing, however, that the advent of digital journalism was putting media workers and their sources at greater risks of being targeted and attackedΩ