Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A legislator queries over newspaper headlines

The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitution Justice and Governance Dr. Pindi Chana has thrown a challenge to some editors of newspapers in the country for writing harsh news headlines which are normally given the precedence in their front pages, saying it is against ethical rules. She said the messages conveyed on headlines for some published stories are rather judgmental and more shocking to readers if compared to their news contents. The Special seat legislator for CCM who professionally is a lawyer gave the concern on Wednesday last wek in Dodoma when contributing on the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No 3) Bill of 2013 which was presented in Parliament for amendments by the Attorney General Frederick Werema. The AG had presented 14 miscellaneous amendments among which was the notorious Newspaper Act of 1976 on which punitive measures had been proposed for endorsement by Parliament contrary to the expectation of the media professionals who thought that it might have been repealed to allow freedom of expression for the media industry in the country. In her contribution she castigated the habits being practiced by some newspapers which have the tendency of breaching ethics and instead use the newspapers to denounce people’s dignity, or certain groups of well-known people in the country for no any cause, a situation that is likely to breach peace in the country. 

Tanzania's Attorney General Frederick Werema

“We recognize the importance of media organs especially when it comes to national development plans, but it has come to my attention that some of these organs are used  by people to breach peace” she said and appealed to the media owners to stop the habit otherwise the government would continue suspending their publications as stipulated in the Newspaper Act. Apart from the newspapers, in addition the legislator also flouted film makers and described their contents as some of which diminish a role model of our national culture and traditional values. Ignoring long calls by media stakeholders to repeal the 1976 Newspaper Act, the government tabled the amendment of the Newspaper Act and on top of it had proposed stiffer penalty to be introduced to wrong doers in order to deter others from committing the same offence, the AG told the house on Thursday morning when narrating into details the government’s intentions over the Act. He said there are some Tanzanian newspapers which violates the law and go far to the extent of breaching the freedom of expression a result of which might cause violence among members of the community. He gave an example of the international media organizations such as CNN and BBC which he said have never disclosed the names of their security agents while in operation, neither have they tempted to disclose their military operations activities in anyway However, he further noted that those are such matters of the top secrets which have no need for publications in any country. He stated that, due to the increased habit by some newspapers in the country of practicing such mistakes, the government has proposed a whopping 5m/- fine against the current 150,000/- charged for publishing a hate speech and/or three years sentence contained in the current Act as a regulation as the penalty would block publication of ‘hate speeches’.

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