16 March 2017

Tanzania: Broadcaster Suspends 9 Journalists Over Trump Fake News

Nine journalists from a public broadcaster in Tanzania, Tanzanian Broadcasting Corporation (TBC), were suspended following the publication of a fake news story alleging that U.S. President Donald Trump had praised the Tanzanian President John Magufuli as an "African hero". The issue of fake news has become topical, and the suspension highlights the need for journalists to adhere to the highest ethical codes to provide fair, verified, and accurate news.

Nine journalists from a public broadcaster in Tanzania, Tanzanian Broadcasting Corporation (TBC), were suspended following the publication of a fake news story alleging that U.S. President Donald Trump had praised the Tanzanian President John Magufuli as an "African hero" as compared to other leaders who are "doing nothing", in Africa.

According to the report President Trump had called to emphasize the excellent performances of President Magufuli, said to be working hard to create good governance, praising his efforts against corruption, and calling on other African leaders to follow the example of Magufuli's good leadership style. The story was published by TBC, and online site Fox Channel.

The TBC Director General Ayub Chacha issued an apology statement immediately following the hoax publication by the journalists stating that the report went against the TBC editorial policy.

The excerpts of the published fake news by TBC also stated the reason why President Trump excluded Tanzanians from a recent travel ban issued by the US government.

The TBC fake news quoted President Trump as saying.

"This law will affect countries like Zimbabwe, Uganda and other African countries where Presidents have declined to leave power doing nothing. Tanzania is not one of them since my namesake there President John Magufuli is doing a wonderful job. Actually Magufuli should be used as a good example but his neighbor Museveni should be used whenever bad example is needed."

Fake news and journalism ethics

Last year, Tanzania's government issued a statement refuting the unverified claims reported in the media that President Magufuli had banned miniskirts. The statement noted that the "false report," was "reckless, totally unwarranted" and called on the publishers to retract the wrong information.

Journalism ethics and codes of practice have become a topical issue of late, and the issue of fake news has been making headlines. The suspension of the journalists indeed highlights the need for journalists to adhere to the highest ethical codes to provide fair and accurate news coverage.

President Magufuli who came to power in 2015 has been nicknamed "bulldozer" because of his leadership style, cracking down on corruption in the public sector, under-performance, and misuse of public resources. The approach has won him support locally and internationally.

Magufuli, whose campaign slogan was Hapa kazi tu (Work and nothing else), made some solemn campaign promises on various issues such as tackling corruption, fixing the economy, improving education, and health service delivery in the country.

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