TEF dismayed by delay in tabling of Media Bill

Deodatus Balile

What you need to know:

  • Government Spokesperson Gerson Msigwa says the Media Services Act, 2016 would be tabled in the next parliamentary session in April, 2023

Dar/Geita. The Chairperson of the Tanzania Editors’ Forum (TEF), Deodatus Balile has said the decision by the government to delay the tabling of the Media Services Act amendment bill in Parliament was unfortunate.

In a statement he released yesterday Mr Balile said the whole consultative process for the bill had been concluded, and that expectations were for the bill to be debated and passed in the ongoing parliamentary session.

“These amendments are long overdue,” he said, adding that the right for the freedom of information was for all Tanzanians and not only for journalists.

“By demanding freedom of information we are seeking to promote democracy and accountability in the country,” Mr Balalile, who is also the Managing Editor of Jamhuri Media, noted.

On Monday, Government Spokesperson, Gerson Msigwa, announced that the Media Services Act, 2016 would not be included in the order paper in this session as previously expected due to issues of schedule.

Instead it will be tabled for discussion in the next parliamentary session in April. Mr Deodatus Balile said the reasons for postponing the tabling of the bill were so light that it raises concerns about the government’s commitment to get the bill through Parliament.

The Chairperson of Journalists Workers’ Union of Tanzania (Jowuta), Mr Mussa Juma, said as stakeholders they are surprised by the delay since they have already submitted their views on the bill to the government.

The Media Services Act was passed by Parliament on November 5, 2016 after 10 years of back and forth consultations among stakeholders.

Soon after it was passed by MPs the former President John Magufuli said he had ordered its passing to put an end to the long wait.

“If there are some shortcomings you will correct them in future, but we can’t   have a bill lounging in the parliamentary draftsman’s cabinets for a decade,” he told journalists at a media get-together at State House in Dar es Salaam in November.

The Act replaced the Newspaper Act of 1976 that was so draconian that some of its sections couldn’t be enforced in a democratic society like Tanzania.

The Media Services Act, 2016, however, had several contentions issues that stakeholders wanted amended.

One of these is Section 6(e) that says newspapers should be licensed instead of being registered with the license to be renewed annually. Stakeholders want permanent or long-term registration. They also want authority of Maelezo on media regulation taken over by a  new body should should be formed for that purpose.