MEMBERS of Kenya's National Assembly have approved a bill aimed at curtailing media freedom in that country, with fines running into as much as 20 million Kenyan shillings for offenders.
The Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill 2013 also known as the Media Council Bill will see individual journalists and media houses violating the code of conduct face dire consequences.
The move has already sparked outcry from the media industry and civil society organisations in Kenya.
The Bill, which now awaits Presidential Assent for it to become law will also see the creation of a powerful Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal to address media complaints as opposed to the current situation where grievances are addressed through the Media Council of Kenya.
The tribunal has sweeping powers to even attach property of individual journalists and media houses. It can also make any supplementary or subsidiary orders or directions that it may consider necessary.
Looking at what has happened in Kenya, the media in Tanzania should quickly make a flashback and see whether it is truly exercising effectively the freedom outlined in the current constitution.
It is evident that the media in Tanzania cater for variety of tastes and interest. Many newspapers, radio and television stations sprung up after the establishment of multi-party politics in 1992. Tanzania has in place both statutory and constitutional provisions providing several aspects of the media industry.
In fact, the constitution guarantees a free and independent media. Article 18 of the constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania provides that, without prejudice to the laws of the land every person has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to seek, receive and impart or disseminate information and ideas through any media regardless of national frontiers.
To sum up the government of Tanzania respects the freedom of the media, but it does not entertain the "Free Freedom". It advocates for Press Freedom with obligation.
Tanzania has three acts for regulating press activities. The Newspaper Act 1976, which gives the President powers to prohibit any publication to be imported or printed if he/she finds that it jeopardises national interest.
Furthermore, the minister responsible for information has the power to prohibit publication of a newspaper and that it will be an offence if any person sells, prints, distributes after such prohibition.
The questions to ask here are: How many newspapers have been banned since President Jakaya Kikwete assumed office almost eight years ago?
We would say very few compared to some unethical articles published. Have our newspapers commanded high quality of professionalism throughout this period, or have they also erred at times to the extent of trying government tolerance?
If all media houses acted responsibly, the Tanzanian parliament may not go as far as where their Kenyan counterparts have arrived, simply because, the democratic media principles applied in Tanzania are of higher standards compared to other countries in the region.
The media industry should insist on professionalism, instead of demanding for some rights which they at times fail to put into practice.
A vivid example is a column in one private daily, which recently intimidated and disgraced the Director of Information Services Mr Assah Mwambene for no apparent reason.
When the government becomes too tolerant to some of the mistakes we make, how long should this patience go? We in the media ought to act professionally, to always make our work credible.