Saturday, May 25, 2013

Media bill to be tabled during the next Parliamentary session

AT Last the government has agreed to bring in discussion its Media Services Bill which for long time has been in discussion without implementation, the Parliament was told on Tuesday this week. The Minister for Information, Youths, Culture and Sports, Dr. Fenella Mukandara assured Parliamentarians that, her office is finalizing with the media stakeholders in the country on certain aspects as regards with the issue which she said would afterwards be tabled during the 12th Parliamentary sessions to be held in November this year.  The call by the minister came after some legislators most of whom from the opposition camp wanted to know the process of present legislation governing media to be amended in the house because  it is outdated and it gives the minister too much power. The legislators had questioned and complained that, the legislation had been shelved for a long time and wanted the government to state clearly its plans and strategies in protecting journalists in the country. They made it open that, the two media services bills which includes freedom of information and the Newspaper Act of 1976 have denied journalists freedom of expression an aspect that it has put their profession at a crossroad. They noted that the Newspaper Act has directly empowered a minister for information at his or her own accord to suspend the publication of a newspaper in the country, and insisted that is outdated as it was enacted during one party system during first phase government. Contributing to the budget estimates of the ministry which was passed on Tuesday this week, Cecilia Pereso (Chadema-Special seat) said that Tanzania journalists have been facing a number of challenges while executing their jobs and have been experiencing hardships to acquire information, hence there is a need to amend the legislation. Amina Mwidau (Special Seat, CUF) stakeholders are the ones who understand the industry better hence their involvement is crucial to enable the ministry to come up with a helpful Media Service Bill. Commenting on the matter on Monday, Juma Nkamia (Kondoa South, CCM) advised the government to conduct thorough research before bringing up the bill, noting that if properly drafted, the law will set operating standards for journalists in the country. Meanwhile, the Newspaper Act of 1976 which gives the Minister for Information, Culture, Youth and Sports power to prohibit publication of a newspaper was criticized by some legislators arguing that it gives the Minister a big leeway. “The Ministry should amend the Newspaper Act of 1976, particularly the section that gives the Minister the power to prohibit newspaper publication knowing that, personal interests could be involved in this,” the CUF Special Seats representative Mwidadu suggested. Rebecca Mgodo (Special Seats, Chadema), countered the motion and suggested that the media industry in Tanzania needs to be changed in order to cope with the current emerging technologies to enable the stakeholders revolutionalize the industry for the betterment of the nation.

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