The occasion was graced by the presence of President Jakaya Kikwete as Guest of Honour… If nothing else, this is critical evidence of the prestige that MCT in particular, and the mass media fraternity in its generality, have deservedly earned in recent years. State Presidents don’t go to mass media events to simply pass the time!
Taking into account the burgeoning fact that the Press is steadily and surely becoming the Fourth Estate of the Realm generally — and, for all practical purposes, the newest Branch of Government — the apparent coming closer together of the Head of State and Government and the foremost mass media body in the country can only be a laudably positive development.
“The media has a special place and calling in national development, and my Govt. recognizes this potent force,” President Kikwete noted in all magnanimity — adding somewhat enigmatically that the mass media “had the power to either build the country or
destroy it all together…” [The Citizen: April 1, 2012].
In the event, Kikwete made several suggestions that can only be for the good of the mass media fraternity as a whole. For starters, the man called upon the owners of mass media organs to make it possible for their workers to undertake measures that’d be for the betterment of their lot. [HabariLeo, et al: April 1, 2012].
For instance, employers should ease the way for their employees to freely join Trade Unions, Social Security Schemes and the National Health Insurance Fund. Noting that many journalists weren’t on the permanent payrolls of the media houses they work for, the president said this shortcoming is compounded by the fact that such workers are grossly underpaid.
At the end of the day, so to speak, the workers retire in utter destitution, having an appalling time of it trying to keep body and soul together in their sunset years. Oh… There’s much more of the goody-good stuff from the occupant of the Highest Office in the Land. Kikwete revealed that his government is gearing to provide scholarships to budding journalists in local journalism institutions of learning…
The overall objective is to come out with skilled professionals, not mercenaries who sell their services to the highest bidder! Fair enough. But, that’s a rather tall order in this day and age when the cost of everything is rising with the passage of time… And the competition is stiffening by the day.
Today, Tanzania is home to around 750 print media publications, including daily and weekly newspapers, as well as periodicals. A hundred of those were registered in six years of the Kikwete presidency! This is to say nothing of dozens of television and scores of radio broadcasting stations countrywide!
The rat-race resulting from the proliferation of mass media organs can only be vicious. This notwithstanding, however, costs of publishing and publications are relentlessly going up — with some weekly newspapers retailing for Tsh1, 000 apiece! In such a situation, that’s wherein journalists, ably guided and aided by MCT, step in the breach to ensure they provide the best services possible.
One way of ensuring that this happens sooner rather than later — and as a matter of course — is by ‘competitive bidding’ (so to speak) through EJAT and similar programmes. Indeed, since the Awards system was first launched in 2009 as the ‘Journalist of the Year Award-Tanzania’ (JoYAT), things have brightened up down the years…
And, as veteran Journalist Attilio Tagalile rightly noted in a subsequent review: ‘the 2009 first-ever JoYAT provided challenges which, if well-handled by Media Houses and other stakeholders, could greatly help in improving the profession in Tanzania.’ This, together with President Kikwete’s pledge to regularly meet with members of the mass media fraternity henceforth, would indeed greatly help in improving the journalism profession in particular, and the sector in general, for now and well into the future.
If I may close on a note of personal interest; I was most gratified that Fili Karashani won the valedictorian [NOT ‘Valid Victorian,’ as reported in a Sunday English lingo paper!) ‘Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism.’ I think he richly deserved this. I first knew the man in 1966… Oh, there should be no room for sentiment here!
What I’d like to know, though, is when the Award will be given next. It surely can’t be in the near future; you can’t have two (or more) ‘Lifetime Awards’ in the same generation, can you? I ask you! Cheers!