Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Parliament asks for a media bill in its next session

THE National Parliament last week disregarded the government’s proposal to amend a clause of the Newspaper Act No. 229 and instead it has requested for the media bill to be brought for discussion in the next parliamentary session.  The Act is among the 14 which have been outlined in the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No 3) Bill of 2013 which earlier was presented in Parliament by the Attorney General Fredrick Werema on Thursday last week. The decision by Parliament was reached after a long debate on the issue whereby some legislators stick to their guns and queried the rationale of not having the media bill tabled since it was first entered in the Parliament in 2006. Contributing a debate over the issue before the decision came over, some legislators most of whom of the ruling party challenged the idea and queried the rationale why the media bill is not brought for discussion in Parliament. In her contribution Jenister  Muhagama (CCM) Paramiho noted that, it was high time now for the government to have the media bill discussed and if possible have the old clauses removed or amended as in accordance with the procedures in order to reform the media sector. The legislator suggested the whole bill be discussed and not some section of it or clauses as there are a lot to be amended since the last Act of a newspaper which was passed by Parliament in 1976. “We are strongly disappointed to see that for years now the media bill which had been in discussion as handled by various ministers now for eight years is not yet in place” she queried and asked the Parliament to do away with the presented amendment until a full media bill is brought for discussion. Peter Serukamba (CCM) Kigoma town, who supported the move also asked the Parliament to discuss the whole media bill and do away with the clauses within the Act. However, he asked the Parliament to remove part 8 of the amendment section 36 (1) and 37(1) b as endorsed in the government’s written laws. The sections had proposed a stiffer penalty of Sh. 150,000 which should be substituted by Sh. 5 million a fine for a newspaper that shall be found guilty of incitements emanating from hate speeches. According to Serukamba, this was a severe punishment  imposed for the media, and in view of this, has asked the government though the Ministry of Information to present the media bill which would also have other matters discussed and settled properly for the media industry in the country.   

Minister for Information, Youths and Sports Dr. Fennela Mukangara

He questioned the Parliament to note that, the endorsements of the proposed fines by the government was not properly done bearing the fact that there are a lot which need to be discussed in the whole media bill and which could need some reforms.The National Speaker Anne Makinda who had agreed with the majority contributions raised by legislators concluded that, there was a need of having the whole media bill tab led in her Parliament during the 13th session which starts in early Dec ember.  Before she winded up a debate, the speaker asked the Minister for Information to say how far office has gone in preparing the media bill, and in response, the Minister in charge Dr. Fenella Mukangara told the house that, the cabinet secretariat in her office was finalizing the draft bill. However, she further clarified that and added that when it is ready would be coordinated with the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) before its approval, and after which would be ready to be presented in Parliament for discussion.  Meanwhile, the Parliament has approved the recommended proposed penalty for the Film and sports Act as earlier presented in the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No 3) Bill of 2013 by the Attorney General. The House has endorsed a penalty of Sh. 3 million instead of Sh. 5 million fines as earlier proposed in the government’s draft. Earlier, debating on the issue, the Shadow Minister for Justice Tundu Lissu (Chadema) Sjngida East queried the rationale of the amendments for the Act and yet since it was last amended in 1976. Lissu was on the view of the fact that, there was no need to substitute a penalty owing to the fact that, it has never worked in the country as no one in the country has been convicted of any offense. However, he said that, this was not fair and wanted the government to remove the proposal as it discourages most film fans in the country. Debating on the matter, the CCM legislator Special seat, Esther Bukaya upheld Lissu’s idea and requested the government and the office of the Attorney General to remove the penalty imposed or reduce it as most Tanzanian youths are now engaged in film making As part of their self employment.

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