Dodoma. Members of Parliament are threatened when they criticise the government in the House, a lawmaker has said.
“Whenever we challenge the government here, we are being given letters and sometimes taken to the ethics committee. That is a threat to us and it diminishes our freedom of expression,” said Mr Zitto Kabwe (Kigoma Urban — ACT-Wazalendo).
He was contributing his views yesterday on the 2016/17 budget for the Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports.
However, Deputy Speaker Tulia Ackson responded that some MPs were taken to the Parliamentary Ethics Committee as a result of their conduct in the House and not because of what they said.
The shadow minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Mr Joseph Mbilinyi (Mbeya Urban —Chadema), accused the government of suppressing the media and curtailing the freedom of expression by banning live broadcasts of the august House sessions and for discriminative laws.
“When the government banned live broadcasts of parliamentary sessions, it claimed that it was too expensive as it spent Sh4 billion annually. Some private broadcasters like Azam TV were ready to do it. The Tanzania Media Fund volunteered to finance the live coverage but the government did not accept the offer. That clearly shows the government had other reasons other than what it claimed,” Mr Mbilinyi said while tabling the alternative budget speech.
“The current government purports to be implementing its slogan Hapa Kazi Tu (Work is What Matters Most) but actually what it does is to intimidate citizens and officials are gripped by fear,” he said.
Mr Mwita Waitara (Ukonga —Chadema) said even the promised recorded broadcasts are not aired at a convinient time.
“I have been following the recorded sessions. They go on air between 7 and 10pm. What kind of people watch the sessions at such late hours?”
In his budget speech, the minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Mr Nape Nnauye, requested Parliament to approve Sh20.3 billion for 2016/2017. Mr Nnauye said the ministry would continue strengthening the government’s communication systems and improve the performance of the Tanzania Broadcating Corporation (TBC) and the Tanzania Standard Newspapers Limited. “The government will supervise operations of media houses including completing the process of enacting the Media Service Act,” he said without explaining when exactly the law will become effective.
He said TBC radio would increase its reach to Kigoma, Mara, Ruvuma, Tanga, Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Lindi.
His speech was mum on the banning of live broadcasts of the National Assembly sessions and the tabling of the media Bill.
The Parliamentary Committee on Community Development was unhappy that the new budget was lower compared to Sh24.95 billion of 2015/16.
The committee said the government did not release any money for the development budget despite the fact that Parliament approved Sh3 billion. “We also advise the ministry to improve revenue collection as there is a huge potential for that,” said Mr Juma Nkamia (Chemba—CCM), a member of the committee who presented the committee report.
Mr Nkamia also advised the government to guarantee TBC so that it can borrow money for expansion.