ON 3rd May, the World Press Freedom Day was globally celebrated again to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and reminded governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and marking the anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration-free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in Windhoek in 1991.
Tanzania celebrating the day in Arusha saw the Information, Culture, Arts and Sports Minister Innocent Bashungwa, revealing that the government was scrutinising names and faces of individuals, who would feature in Journalists Accreditation Board.
Kudos Mr Bashungwa for being transparent on this. This is a sensitive industry that should not be abused, but realised that the media plays an important role in society as a source of information.
A journalist is the voice that acts as a mediator between the People and the Government, or in a soft language, the media is often perceived as an influencer of public opinion.
Without journalism, the world would be ignorant. Journalism is important because it gives current and relevant information and news to the public.
This area requires no compromise in professional integrity and builds a journalist’s credibility. It has a code of ethics centering on public trust, truthfulness, fairness, independence, and accountability.
Therefore, the minister has all the rights to call for thorough vetting process for media actors and professionals as per the Media Services Act, 2016 enacted with provisions of promoting professionalism in the media industry, and for the establishment of the Journalists Accreditation Board, Independent Media Council and framework for regulation of media services and for other related matters.
“Much as the act provides for the establishment of the board, we are currently vetting for who and who to feature in it,” the minister explained.
It is good the minister also pointed out that the government values the access to information concept, further pledging that it will continue to work closely with the fourth estate in bridging the gap with the citizenry.
“We guarantee you a peaceful working environment, both in the mainland and the isles, we are not here to muzzle the media as it is widely perceived,” he said.
Equally, the minister insisted on conducting dialogues with owners of media houses, in a bid to resolve any disputes pitting the government and the media outlets.
However, appeal to the media industry is to practice responsible and patriotic journalism that criticise constructively not judging, mudslinging and running personal vendetta in public, because at the end of the day Tanzania is ours and once it shakes, we all shake.