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Challenges facing journalists and the way forward

Challenges facing journalists and the way forward

JOURNALISTS are important people in the world of sharing news from one person, area or events to another. They research and create newsworthy content that is shared to many in form of newspapers, TVs, radio stations, websites and recently, social media platforms.

The content shared takes a lot of effort to be presented which includes physical movement, analyzing, reading, thinking and even interviewing questions to ensure that the news are reaching end users who are the members of the public.

The journalist profession is referred as a fourth estate, for it is a pillar which government uses to communicate with her people, know their opinions, social services needed and hence, know the area of interventions

Activists do outright recognize journalists as human right defenders for they mostly act as voice of the voiceless. This is when they travel in towns and countryside to research for contents to be published for public consumption.

With all this, still journalists work  in tough conditions and environment where they themselves know where it bits more. Leaving aside management challenges, employment or unsatisfactory payment, there are others borne by the hard nature of this noble profession.

It is estimated that by the month of May 2021, the government of Tanzania has registered a total of 246 Newspapers, 194 Radio and 53 television stations.  There is a glimpse to protect journalists rights after President Samia Suluhu Hassan started her role by  ordering that the online media whose licenses had been revoked be allowed to operate.

 “I have been told there are media outlets that were banned. Reopen them, we should not give them room to say we are shrinking press freedom…We should not ban the media by force.” The President was quoted in the statement that rekindled hope for the life of media outlets.

The Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) released its ninth situation report which discusses challenges reported to have faced journalists in the year 2021.

The report, which was released recently as THRDC marks 10 years of its establishment, mentioned challenges faced by Tanzanian journalists to be including court cases against journalists, security challenges encountered by journalists and the media outlets.

The report also mentions other challenges which include but are not limited to arrests, malicious prosecution and conviction, criminalization, unlawful detention, imposition of hefty fine to media outlets, termination from employment, suspension and banning from operations and other legal and regulatory related challenges.

THRDC uses the 10 years report to raise voice for justice for  Attackers of journalists in Geita who were covering the story of students’ demonstration to  be arrested and prosecuted by the respective authorities. According to the report, the attackers were police officers who are supposedly entrusted to investigate and thus under normal circumstances the investigation could not be conducted.

The 2017 incident where Clouds Media Group offices were invaded by former Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda, is one of the incidents they call for justice. The report says that the incident has never been investigated by the Police Force to arraign and prosecute the perpetrator despite the video clip which clearly showed the raid.

Another pending issue is about the attackers of journalists and other participants during the CUF meeting at Vina Hotel in Dar es Salaam in the year 2017. It says that there have never been any suspect arraigned and prosecuted for the horrific crime they committed on 21st April 2017 seriously beating up journalists, members and leaders of the opposition party – CUF

The kidnappers of Salma Said, a journalist from Zanzibar have never been found and charged for their deeds. She was abducted and tortured by unknown people in 2016 upon landing at the Julius Kambarage International Airport in Dar es Salaam.

 “THRDC is    increasingly disturbed with the state of impunity of the highest order and hereby recommends investigations with the view to bring all the perpetrators to justice. Investigation should be conducted to all cases involving journalists who in one way or another found themselves in trouble because their human rights activities were violated. THRDC also calls upon the government to create an enabling environment for journalists,”

Killing of a female ITV journalist Ms Blandina Sembu On 28th March 2021who was reported to have been murdered and her body being thrown alongside the road, at Mwenge area, Kinondoni, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 

The report mentions police through the  then  Kinondoni Regional Police Commander, Mr Ramadhan Kingai confirmed to the media to have received reports that Blandina’s body was dumped in front of Maryland bar, Mwenge on Saturday, March 27, 2021, at 11 pm. He said a Toyota Noah whose registration has not been confirmed arrived at the scene and stopped shortly before throwing Blandina’s body; she was already dead by then.

The report mentions   that in the year 2021, there was recorded one killing of a journalist, eight threats and torture. There were also recorded 18 arbitrary arrests and Malicious Prosecution, while Suspension and Banning from Operation for media outlets recorded were 13.

To sum up all, it is worth noting here that journalists in Tanzania are not alone in the challenges they faced when striving to bring about development as THRDC has its eyes wide open and voice raised on the matter.

This is as the report mentions that most of the reported incidents of violations of journalists’ rights were promptly attended to by the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition by issuing press statements, assisting in bail processing and legal representation for those who were arraigned to court.

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Author: JAMES KAMALA

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