15 February 2013

Tanzania: Many Oppose Bunge Live Broadcast Ban

THE National Assembly's bid to ban live broadcasts of House proceedings has been bitterly condemned by many as pundits see the move as an infringement of people's constitutional right to access to information.

Political Science Lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr Benson Bana told the 'Daily News' that any move to keep proceedings from public view would be un welcomed and undemocratic as the electorate would like to see and judge their representatives accordingly.

"There is nothing to fear just because Members of Parliament (MPs) misbehave, the chair should just make sure that they adhere to standing orders. "These are times of accountability and transparency, there is no way we can accept any idea that seems to infringe on the two crucial aspects of democracy and rule of law," he said.

Prof Mwesiga Baregu crushed the proposal to bar photographing MPs who dose off in Parliament during proceedings, noting that there is no point in trying to shield such lawmakers. "MPs who cannot attend and pay attention to proceedings should not have been there in the first place, they should resign and let those committed Tanzanians with energy take their places," he said.

Prof Baregu, a former lecturer at UDSM and a member of the Constitutional Review Commission, noted that trying to conceal events in the House would not improve MPs behaviour and instead the best way is to ensure that standing orders are observed.

"We have made progress by having live broadcasts of Parliament sessions; any move against this will be a major setback. We should find ways of moving forward and not backwards," he said. Prof Baregu cautioned MPs against making senseless utterances in the House, saying that electorates were keenly watching and would end up making decisions that may hurt them in coming elections.

Prof Hengribert Kowera of the University of Dar es Salaam was also quoted as saying the solution was not to deny the public the right to follow live events in Parliament but to make the MPs abide by standing orders and regulations. "You don't cut off a wounded leg to keep marauding flies away. You heal the wound and spare the leg.

The right to information should not be restrained. Let the MPs observe the regulations and unruly should be shown the door," Prof Kowera said. The Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Secretary for Ideology and Publicity, Mr Nape Nnauye said his party supports any move to restore the dignity of the National Assembly.

"Any move that will restore the dignity of the National Assembly receives our support, we cannot leave the House to become like a gathering of hooligans who do whatever they want," he said. Joseph Israel a resident of Dar es Salaam said that if there is anything people enjoy and makes the government looks democratic before the public is the live broadcast of the National Assembly sessions.

"I will feel very bad for not watching live what transpires in the House and I think there is no need to stop live broadcast of the Bunge because we want to see what our representatives are doing," he said. He warned that with modern advanced technology where many people in urban areas have access to internet; there will be no secret even if the Bunge proceedings would be held in camera.

The National Assembly Clerk, Dr Thomas Kashililah told journalists on Wednesday that negotiations between his office and that of the Tanzania Communication and Regulatory Authority (TCRA) were underway, seeking the possibility to stop live coverage of Bunge proceedings following recent events which have tarnished the image of the House.

When asked outside the debating chamber why the lawmakers misbehaved despite the presence of regulations, some MPs admitted that they wanted to be seen by their electorate and the nation at large.

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