Fresh hope in Tanzania ahead of Press Freedom Day

The World Press Freedom Day, which is celebrated annually on May 3.

What you need to know:

  • This year’s theme states “Journalism under Digital Siege,”

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania marks this year’s World Press Freedom Day amid optimism that the country was heading towards the right direction in as far freedom of the press is concerned, stakeholders say.
The World Press Freedom Day, which is celebrated annually on May 3, serves as a great reminder on policy makers’ commitment to protect freedom of expression as well as a day for reflection for media stakeholders on adherence of professionalism.
Speaking to The Citizen, stakeholders and journalists say there are still many regulatory, legal and operational challenges in the media industry in Tanzania which hinder growth and freedom.
However, they both commended the new state administration under President Samia Suluhu Hassan which has shown relief and determination to re-evaluate policies, regulations and being able to listen to industry’s concerns.
Senior journalist and chairperson of Media Institute of Southern Africa, Tanzania Chapter (MISA-Tan) Salome Kitomari said there are still some laws and regulations that impede the freedom of media that include and not limited to the Access to Information Act 2016, Media Services Act 2016, Cybercrime Act 2015 and the Electronic and Postal Communication Act (EPOCA).
“However, we have an administration that is listening and able to receive our recommendations for the amendments of such laws, and there are also promising statements from the government that they are willing to address,” she said.
Ms Kitomari also said there is also an economic challenge where media houses struggle to operate as the rising costs from the economy bites.
“Individually, journalists also struggle to get decent pay for their work which in some ways affects ethics in the sector because people have families and it is difficult to decline bribes if you don’t have a stable income or proper pay from your job,” she said.
While this year’s theme states “Journalism under Digital Siege,” Ms Kitomari also says in Tanzania the tech development and rise in digital journalism has brought both pros and cons.
“There are issues of harmful content, unethical reporting and the increasing citizen journalism has somehow hurt the ethics of professional journalism,” she said.
Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) chairman Deodatus Balile said that the government has also shown promise through lifting bans to some newspapers and online media.
“Even when you look at the headlines these days you see that they are out of fear, editors are doing their jobs without worrying about the authorities,” he said.