Tanzania: Ex-President Mkapa - I Believe in Free Media

Dar es Salaam — Retired President Benjamin Mkapa says in his memoir My Life, My Purpose: Tanzania President Remembers that free media is one of the cornerstones of good governance.

Mr Mkapa, who served as Head of State from 1995 to 2005, says during his tenure his administration tried to foster relations between the government and public entities by, among other things, introducing public relation officers at the ministerial level.

Mr Mkapa, who reveals that he borrowed a leaf from South Africa, says the move was aimed at making sure that citizens were aware of what the government is implementing.

"I learnt it in South Africa where senior public servants use communication officers to inform the public about what the government is implementing," he says. "The citizenry must know that you are working in their interest, though that shouldn't be used as promotional... I wish I could use more to on improving the information frame work which I started. I should have insisted that these information officers were more productive."

Mr Mkapa, who also served as Tanganyika Standard (currently Tanzania Standard Newspapers) managing editor as well as head of the now defunct Tanzania News Agency (Shihata), says despite hesitation from the government, he believes that it was important to create competition in the sector by inviting the private sector.

The former President Mkapa writes in his book that he personally facilitated Nation Media Group, which owns The Citizen, Mwananchi and Mwanaspoti newspapers, to set up shop in Tanzania because he believed that it was important to introduce variety and competition in the media industry.

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However, Mr Mkapa criticises the media currently operates.

In his book the former President suggests that most of the news currently has no newsworthiness and was full of opinion.

"Frankly I don't like to interact with local media nowadays because so often, which was certainly not the case journalist conducted themselves when I worked in the media."

President Mkapa opens up about his ten-year leadership at the helm, pouring out his heart on some of the issues that defined his legacy and also those that blotted his tenure in office.

The 320-page autobiography was unveiled on Tuesday in Dar es Salaam at a well-attended function, which was officiated by President John Magufuli. Also in attendance were retired presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Jakaya Kikwete and Zanzibar President Ali Mohammed Shein, among other high-profile figures.

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