Govt sets up media law bodies

DAR ES SALAAM: THE government is in the process of setting up institutions outlined in the Media Services Act of 2016. The update was disclosed on Thursday by the Minister for Information, Communication, and Information Technology, Nape Nnauye, during a visit to the Tanzania Standard Newspapers (TSN) headquarters.

Minister Nnauye stressed the importance of journalists to collaborate closely with the Tanzania Information Services (MAELEZO) to accelerate the establishment of the institutions.

“These institutions are specifically for the benefit of journalists and it is essential for them to actively participate in their formation rather than leaving the responsibility solely to MAELEZO,” he said.

Under the leadership of President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the government aims to empower the media industry and journalists to selfregulate.

Minister Nnauye reiterated that the objective is to ensure an independent and responsible media sector that effectively serves the public interest. The ongoing process follows the completion of the amendment process on the Media Services Act and its accompanying regulations.

In June 2023, Parliament passed several amendments proposed by the government to create a conducive environment for journalists and media companies in the country.

Among the notable amendments carried out involve the power that was vested upon the Director of Information Services in deciding where to place government advertisements.

The changes effected allow the government to select media outlets for advertising by market dynamics. Furthermore, amendments were made to introduce reasonable penalties for journalists found in contravention of the law.

Notably, fines and imprisonment terms for offences such as publishing seditious publications have been revised to be more proportionate.

To enhance freedom of expression, a new section, named Section 38, was added to improve people’s right to air their views. Minister Nnauye elaborated on the amendments, highlighting that stakeholders proposed 21 recommendations, with eight remaining unchanged while others were reviewed.

Notably, criminal liability for media practitioners was removed. That law along with other things has established an Accreditation Board which will be responsible for providing credentials and identification to qualified journalists. It will also initiate the formation of a Training Fund for journalists and Independent Media Council.

The government and media players agreed to address the licensing aspect of the law during the drafting of regulations to operationalise it. Minister Nnauye emphasised the importance of ensuring professionalism in the media industry to uphold the right of consumers to accurate information.

The Bill before approval also recommended the amendments of Sections 50, 51, 53, 54, 55, 63 and 64 to set up some reasonable penalties for journalists who will have acted in contravention of the law.

Besides, the proposed changes to the law also intended to remove from the list of those to be penalised, someone who owns a printing press, who, under normal circumstances, does not have powers to determine the content of what gets printed.

Before amendments Section 50 (1) (c) penalises someone, who prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes, or reproduces any seditious publication.

The first offender in a seditious case is, upon conviction, liable to a fine of between 5ml/- and 10m/- or to an imprisonment term of between three and five years or both. For a subsequent offence, the fine should be between 7m/- and 20m/- or an imprisonment term between five and ten years.

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