Tanzania marks yet another Press Freedom Day, but...

Dar es Salaam. World Press Freedom Day which is being marked globally today has come at a time when journalists in Tanzania and around the world are still facing safety threat due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), many journalists were putting themselves at risk when reporting on the global crisis, with many of them falling ill from Covid-19 in the process and dozens have died worldwide from the novel coronavirus in the past two months.

Media stakeholders in Tanzania say the Covid-19 has posed a big safety challenge for most journalists when reporting stories related to the killer virus. The president of the Union of Tanzania Press Clubs (UTPC), Mr Deogratius Nsokolo, said there was a pressing need to help the journalists out of the situation.

“UTPC feels it is still important to continue helping the media and journalists in reporting on various issues that are occurring in our country accurately and confidently,”he said.

He added: “The insecurity of a journalist is one of the reasons that has continued to create fear among them and failure to carry out their responsibilities professionally.”

UTPC says the event, themed ‘Journalism without fear or favour’ was scheduled to take place today, but has been postponed due to Covid-19, until September 28, this year.

Mr Nsokolo said the insecurity of journalists has been heightened by the existing laws that undermined the freedom of information.

For his part, the Coordinator of Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), Mr Onesmo Olengurumwa, said in their 2019 survey, they revealed that there was an increase in cases of harassment to journalists from 26 in 2018 to 36 in 2019.

“Currently, the media is engulfed in fear, there has been an excessive editorial censorship in order to keep the media alive, not to be banned…We have seen private media users get arrested, ” said Mr Olengurumwa.

He said during this fight against Covid-19, citizens need accurate information in abundance.

“Accurate information in times like this is of paramount importance, “he said. Veteran journalist Pili Mtambalike said the introduction of the Media Services Act (2016), the Statistics Act (2016) and the Cybar Crimes Act (2015) has put the information industry at risk.