Dodoma. Media stakeholders have raised their concerns over what they termed as declining press freedom in the country as it joins other countries across the world to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day.
Speaking during the ceremony held in Dodoma, media stakeholders cited various incidents, which indicate that media freedom in the country is deteriorating.
Some of the incidents, which were pointed out by the media fraternity, include the disappearance of Mwananchi Communications Limited’s freelance journalist, Mr Azory Gwanda as well as the closure of some newspapers, which included The Citizen.
“We were really disappointed to hear a minister responsible for information say that people should not speak or ask questions about the disappearance of the Mwananchi Communications Limited freelancer,” said the acting Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) chairman, Mr Deodatus Balile.
But in a quick rejoinder, the director of Tanzania Information Services Department, who doubles as the government’s chief spokesperson, Dr Hassan Abbasi, said there was a need for establishment of a special committee, which will look at problems facing the media fraternity, stressing it should come up with suggestions on how they could be addressed.
“If you are ready (media stakeholders) we (the government) are also ready to form a special committee, which will look at and analyse problems facing the media and come up with suggestions on how they can be addressed,” said Dr Abbasi.
He added: “We are aware that there have been some complaints from the media stakeholders over the laws such as Cyber Crime Act, Media Services Act to mention but a few.
However, I think through the committee the laws might be amended,” said Dr Abbasi.
He also refuted claims that the government is not advertising with the private media, citing financial constraints as the major reason.
Speaking prior to Dr Abassi, Mr Balile said TEF, Media Council of Tanzania and other stakeholders held a meeting in Tanga between April 9 and 13 this year to evaluate media freedom in the country, from which they were in agreement that the freedom of expression was shrinking.
Mr Balile said the government through the information services has been shutting down some newspapers in contravention of the Media Services Act.
According to him, the law requires the government to take to the court any media outlet, which does not act in accordance with the laws.
For their parties, British High Commissioner to Tanzania Sarah Cooke and Chargé d’Affaires of the US Inmi Patterson reiterated the need for the government to ensure that there is the freedom of expression in the country.