World Press Freedom Day-2023: What Zanzibar resolutions tell us

TO mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) at national level in Zanzibar, members of the media fraternity and stakeholders discussed several topics aiming to create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers, thus strengthening peace, democracy and sustainable development.

Delegates at the WPFD colorful event opened by the Zanzibar Minister for Information, Youth, Culture and Sports, Ms Tabia Maulid Mwita on May 1 and closed on May 3rd by President Hussein Ali Mwinyi, discussed protection and safety of journalists; working conditions of journalists; gender and digital harassment against women politicians and journalists.

This year’s WPFD was co-organised by different press organisations led by the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) – Mainland and Zanzibar, in collaboration with government departments of Information (Maelezo) – Mainland and Zanzibar, with support from multiple local and international organizations led by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

This year journalists marked the 30th year of this United Nations (UN) International Day, under the theme, as defined by UNESCO; ‘Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a Driver for All Other Human Rights’.

Three decades have passed since WPFD was proclaimed in 1993, in which we have seen substantial progress towards achieving a free press and freedom of expression around the world.

The proliferation of independent media in many countries and the rise of digital technologies have enabled the free flow of information. However, media freedom, safety of journalists and freedom of expression are increasingly under attack, which impacts negatively fulfillment of other human rights.

UN also observes that the international community faces multiple crises: conflicts and violence, persistent socio-economic inequalities driving migration, environmental crises and challenges to the health and wellbeing of people all around the world and that at the same time, disinformation and misinformation online and offline proliferate, with serious impact on the institutions underpinning democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

“It is exactly to counter these critical situations and threats, that press freedom, safety of journalists and access to information take centre stage. The right to freedom of expression, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a prerequisite and a driver to the enjoyment of all other human rights. It is therefore, a call to recentre press freedom, as well as independent, pluralistic and diverse media, as key to the enjoyment of all other human rights,” the UN statement says.

In support of the UN move to safeguard journalists and promote freedom of media, journalists, editors and stakeholders came-up with resolutions that tasks all, including government, Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), media training institutions and development partners to work harder in ensuring protection and safety of Journalists and guaranteeing media freedom and increased civic space as per ‘Article 19 of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’

The UN Article 19 states ‘Everyone has the right of freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’

The resolutions read before participants by TAMWA Chairperson, Ms Joyce Shebe, include media organisations and stakeholders to bring together female journalists and parliamentarians, as well as female students so that they can discuss challenges of online violence and how to counter through strengthening advocacy networks.

Others are to conduct research and trainings for journalists without leaving one behind and identify gaps so that they can use the available resources equally between urban and rural; conduct and/or sponsor digital training, climate change, environmental pollution, This is for journalists to build capacity on these issues and ultimately be able to actively inform and provide education that will enable citizens understand national issues and play their part.

Other recommendations from the WPFD conference in Zanzibar is to defend and protect the country’s interests in promoting media freedom and human rights; strengthening networks with stakeholders’ including security agencies to facilitate the protection and safety for journalists in the country.

To have a coordinated system for reporting incidents of violence, harassment and violations of the rights of journalists as well as having a common database of those issues, unlike the current discrepancy where each media organisation/institution has its own way of presentation and statistics; and to provide funding for financial resources and technology to facilitate the operation of gender desks in the media.

Encouraging the participation of media owners in various discussions as reliable means to engage them in solving challenges facing journalists including protection and security, interest, knowledge and creativity in the use of ICT.

Establishing a procedure for passing on knowledge and experience to develop the talents of building journalists who will bring ideas, new thinking, and digital skills that will stimulate creativity in newsrooms without violating journalistic ethics; and improving working environment for journalists, including the existence of employment contracts; paying salaries in time; and provide health insurance for journalists;

other important resolutions are to conduct regular training for journalists, editors, producers and senior managers to increase the value chain in the provision of the right media content, marketing, and business for the well-being of the media; and to organize and conduct peer dialogues between veteran journalists and young journalists with the aim of building their professional capacity and self-confidence;

Investing in digital technology, creativity and using various commercial systems to increase income through producing quality content that is focused on the needs of consumers; and to establish special desks to verify information sending it to consumers through social media, to prevent dissemination of false and fake news, and restore the public’s trust in the media.

To be in the forefront of covering rural or marginalised areas, in efforts to raise the voices of the voiceless along with raising the voices of women and special groups, including people with disabilities and children living in difficult environments.

The call on the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar to speed up the process of writing new media law so that journalists in Zanzibar can work in better environment, and to involve journalists in this process of writing laws, and also an appeal to the union government to monitor of registered media to ensure that they pay salaries and observe other rights of journalists.

After they heard the recommendations from journalists, Minister Ms Tabia and President Mwinyi were joined by the Deputy Minister for Information, Communication and Information Technology in the Union government- Mr Kundo Mathew, and members of the diplomatic corps, to reassure members of the media of continued support to achieve their goals.

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