11 January 2013

Tanzania: Media Calls for Inclusion of Freedom in 'Katiba'

AS the Constitutional Review Commission makes progress in a bid to meet the 2014 deadline for the establishment of a new constitution, members of the Tanzania Editors' Forum have called for inclusion of clauses guaranteeing freedom and independence of the media.

An editor's forum committee member, Mr Deodatus Balile, while reading on behalf of the group a list of suggestions to the Constitutional Review Commission, noted that the forum requested the Parliament not to enact laws prohibiting freedom of speech or of the press or the right to information.

The forum also suggested that the new constitution should make it clear that editors and publishers of newspapers and other institutions of the mass media shall not be subjected to control or interference by government or get penalized or harassed for editorial opinions, views and content of their publications.

The media fraternity also suggested that the new constitution should recognize the sector as the Forth Estate in the country. This is so because of its important role in the society, of reporting on a variety of issues, creating powerful personalities and its vital role in Parliament and government.

This makes it an important part of a democratic society. It was also suggested that after the new constitution becomes effective within six months after its first meeting, the Parliament should establish an Act, a National Media Council that will consist of 15 members from various professions.

The council, which will elect its own chairman, shall comprise (but not limited to) one representative from the Media Owners of Tanzania, the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), the Association of Writers of Tanzania, the Library Association, the training institutions for journalists and communicators and the workers association.

The council will have two representatives from each nominating institutions, Editors Associations, Journalists Associations, the President and Parliament and Recognized religious organizations. The council will be responsible for: Regulating the media, setting media standards, monitoring media compliance with the set standards and promoting career development and professionalism in the media.

On access to information, the editor's forum suggested that every citizen has the right to access information held by the state, another person or any institution for the exercise or protection of interests of the society.

The Media Owners Association of Tanzania (MOAT) has suggested that the new constitution should recognize freedom of press and abolish issuing licences to those wishing to establish media houses. MOAT Chairman, Mr Reginald Mengi suggested that an independent organ should be established comprising different experts who will be tasked to manage the media industry.

The Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) has suggested that the new constitution should change all laws that are oppressing women, especially those that do not allow women to inherit property. TAMWA also noted that the new constitution should protect women's dignity and to outlaw rape within marriages.

TAMWA'S Board Member Ms Gladness Munuo reading the association's list of suggestions yesterday, noted that the new constitution should prohibit marriages of girls under 18 years and should compel courts to rule on rape cases in the shortest time possible to protect the rights of those raped.

Ms Munuo also touched on government media houses noting that the new constitution should change state media to public media, to be managed by the public and the president should not appoint managers of these organisations.

Meanwhile, the Tanzania Agriculture Society Organization (TASO) has suggested that the new constitution should state clearly areas that will be utilized by pastoralists and those that will be for crop production.

TASO National Chairman, Mr Engelbert Moyo told journalists, shortly after meeting with the Constitution Review Commission that land disputes between pastoralists and farmers in the country occur due to lack of clear policies and clear directives from the current constitution.

He explained that once the new constitution stipulates which pieces of land belong to farmers and those that belong to pastoralists, each group will control and manage its own area, to avoid bloodshed in scuffles over land for grazing and cropping.

Mr Moyo also suggested that the new constitution should set a limitation to the amount of land that should be availed to foreign investors, to protect local farmers who are the main producers of food from land grabbers.

"The current constitution is not clear on land allocation to farmers resulting in food production decrease in the country, however, this is an opportunity for the new constitution to have clear and specific directives on land allocation, especially for farmers who are the largest contributors to the national economy," he explained.

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