30 January 2013

Tanzania: Zanzibar Rides Rough Political Change

Photo: Tanzania Daily News
Aftermath (file photo): Religious leaders attacked in zanzibar.

Zanzibar — WITH support from development partners, this is an important time (2013-2015), because Zanzibar is undergoing social, political and economical change, amid growing concerns over corruptions in public offices, land crisis, and violation of human rights even by security forces.

The changes also include agricultural revival, peace and stability building, promotion of good governance and social responsibility.

But little is known to people about what both the government and development partners have been doing. Probably that is why last Saturday, the United Nations through its Communications Group (UNCG) in Tanzania met with Zanzibar Journalists for one day training/workshop to discuss on how to communicate to the people on what both Government and UN is implementing in the country.

As media are essential in driving changes, the UN has opted to help to build capacities of journalists and equip them with skills necessary to report on the ongoing development programmes, which include human rights issues. Sponsored by the UN resident Coordinator's Office, the reporters' gathering was intended to increase understanding and cooperation between the UN and the media organization in Tanzania/in Zanzibar, and the discussions were centred on how the UN has been implementing its programmes under UNDAP with the revolutionary government of Zanzibar.

Human Rights reporting was given a priority in the discussions. UNDAP is a common business plan for the United Nations agencies and national partners, aligned to the priorities of the host country and the internationally agreed development goals. Tanzania was the first country in the region to use the UNDAP methodology and about USD $777 million was approved in June 2011 for the four-year project of work in support of Zanzibar/Tanzania's economic, social and political development.

Little has been reported in the media, particularly issues of human rights, raising concerns from people including members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives whether journalists are really doing what they are supposed to do. Some members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives like Mr Hamad Masoud Hamad (CUF- Ole), Mr Ismail Jussa Ladhu (CUF- Mjimkongwe), and Mr Hamza Hassan Juma (CCM- Kwamtipura) say that a lot of issues of Human Rights in Zanzibar is uncovered in the media.

When discussing the bill to establish 'Zanzibar Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC)', recently in the House, the legislators attributed poor coverage on Human rights and development issues to lack of proper working tools, lack of training, and low payment for the journalists in Zanzibar. They also blamed limited press freedom evidenced through frequent interference in media house especially the state media, by some authorities for censorship, scrapping out stories which reveal abuse of public office.

Zanzibar government through its ministry for information responded to the claims by the law makers that major changes, including more freedom and better welfare for journalists working for the Zanzibar state media are for implementation soon. Zanzibar has radio, TV, and daily newspapers owned by the government. There are also several Private FM radios, and one Television cable which have not set up as an active news media.

Therefore, majority Zanzibaris rely heavily on media outlets from neighbouring areas like Dar es Salaam. At the UN workshop for Journalists working in Zanzibar, facilitators called upon journalists and the media at large to be active in driving for change and inform people about development programmes in the islands.

For example, Ms Hamisa Mmanga from the Zanzibar Attorney General (AG) chamber said in her paper that reporters need to improve on reporting about violation of human rights in Zanzibar, particularly the escalating violation of children and women rights. She said that the media can help to drum up for the 1948 Human Rights Declaration, the 1981 UN-Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the 1989 UN- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which should be observed from 'individual person, family to national level.'

Hamisa, the lawyer also working with the Zanzibar Female Lawyers' Association (ZAFELA) says that different types of Gender Based Violence (GBV) like economical, domestic, and sexual, human trafficking have been going in the islands, but the media pays little attention. "We want journalists to work harder, do investigation on these abuses hampering the development of the women and children. Reporting social problems can definitely help to alert people and the authorities to take action," said Hamisa.

Mr Anthony Rutabanzibwa from the International Labour Organization (ILO) - Dar es Salaam said that there have been noticeable increase of human rights activism and coverage on human rights globally, "but media needs to do more on the subject." He said that journalism is one of the most dangerous professions, as he called for protection of reporters so that they can perform better their work without fear, for the development of the country.

For increased media freedom, he suggested, "reporters should have proper training, balance stories, build and strengthen relationship between reporters and NGOs, the government should stop unjustified interference to the media, sources and authorities should be transparent." In Zanzibar awareness about human rights has been growing, but still remains low among the public, as a result of laws and regulations being unclear to most people and also written in English, which majority Zanzibaris do not understand.

In addition, journalists in Zanzibar still have difficulties to access information kept by the official institutions. In this regard, the workshop in Zanzibar undertaken by UN-sub office came very timely, as the country is undergoing the important transformations towards observation of human rights. It provided a number of participants with the knowledge to raise awareness about existing development programmes and human rights abuses.

The organizers of the training brought together subject matter 'experts' from the United Nations office, attorney general chamber, and civil societies. The experts briefed participants on the main issues that should be covered or reported. According to Mr Salim Said Salim, veteran journalist and a facilitator of the training, this project will hopefully encourage the Zanzibar journalists to further investigate important human rights abuses.

He emphasized that both the media and the government have great role in promoting human rights in the islands. He said that it is always "sad to see authorities, security forces, and the courts blamed for violating human rights. Currently, people are not happy with how the police deal with suspected criminals or in stopping demonstrations, police are brutal. Also in our Court people are complaining of unjustified denial of bail."

Ms Hoyce Temu gave the overview of the implementation of the UNDAP saying since the beginning of the programme, which include MKUZA, there have been noticeable achievements and challenges which the media have to report. Ms Anna Liboro Senga, Head of the UN-sub office/Liaison officer mentioned that the UNDAP implementation of year two work plan in Zanzibar include HIV/AID, Emergencies, Economic growth, social protection, environment, health and nutrition, 'Water Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH)', and governance.

She informed the journalists from Zanzibar that in governance, the highlights include supporting legal sector reforms; support to development of child justice strategy and child protection; support for anti-corruption; enhancing aid management capacity; and promoting community dialogue.

However, she said that key challenges in the UNDAP implementation in the first year were weak coordination; "delays in approval of proposals and submission of reports; lengthy procurement process; limited technically qualified national consultants; capacity and resource limitations/expectations on allowances."

In conclusion, the training workshop on development and human rights reporting was qualified as a successful experience by all the journalists like Mr Charles Mwakenja from the Guardian, Ms Salma Said from the Citizen, and Ms Rahma Suleiman from Chuchu FM radio involved in the project.

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