The freedom of media and state control

Governments in the world especially in quasi democratic (may be pseudo-democratic) societies like Tanzania are known for their hate to those media houses which report contrary to what the rulers in these countries would want to hear.

In these countries media are expected by our ‘’leaders’’ to be sycophants so as to have a safe haven and operate smoothly. Following the ban imposed to Mwananchi  and Mtanzania  newspapers (14 days and 90 days respectively), I get the feeling that the media in this country have a long way to go in order to strive while spearhead the debates in the really issues.

They may continue to shout and publish stories but the benchmark is set by what those in power want to hear and not otherwise.

In the environment where the decisions and policies of the government are very unpredictable where the public can never know what will happen tomorrow our rulers have wielded the power to determine what the public should read in the newspapers or access in other electronic media.

They are the ones who know what the best is and what isn’t for the population and here is where the problem comes. The stories which sound as a sting to the government of the day can be easily branded as a threat to national security and therefore whoever publishes the story must face the music.

The bitter truth which our rulers don’t want to see thrive in some of the media cannot be put under the rug. At least through this unofficial fourth pillar of the state the people can breath and releasing their frustration and find stress remedy.

We have seen the way the sessions and debates in our parliament ends in acrimony and if people won’t be able to converse through the media that will be a double blow.

Our governments in Africa are accustomed at looking for a quick fix when dealing with complex problems therefore it’s very easy to see the threat posed by what is published in media by the bearer of the seats in the rung of power.

But they surely should know that they miss the really threat which may take the form of quality of education for example which the children of this country are fed.

The fact is after few years we will have two nations in one country as the schools which the children of the ‘‘haves’’ and of the ‘‘have not’’ attend are two galaxies apart. This is the example of the crisis which is in the making and can take this country in the total annihilation if the situation is to proceed as it is.

It is pathetic if the government monitoring and banning of the newspaper is going to continue as it is the case now. I don’t understand the criteria used for the authority to exercise the draconian newspaper act of 1976.The one thing I know is that some newspapers like the state and ruling party owned which are in favour of the authority are the ones set the benchmark for other to follow it seems!

The other types of papers which enjoy the safe haven are the tabloids famously known as “Udaku” of which their stories are mostly around personalities and local celebrities and the wannabe local celebrities who will do anything to be famous including having their nude photos published.

To me these types of tabloids are the ones threating the well-being of this nation because they kill important debates and if we don’t use words to argue against each other what are we going to use?

The government should know that we cannot continue to try to build more open society where the freedom of the media is paramount without graduating from the past thinking.

The media cannot just be the mouth piece of the ruler’s policies and decisions the health media should be critical and able to tell the government and the public the truth.

The era of authoritarian acts is over and we should try to create the enabling environment for a serious media houses to flourish. The use of power to control the media might save the leaders now but never in long term.

The strength of the true leader is his/her capacity to think in terms of hundred years from now in that ours should not continue to be myopic!

By Ramadhani Msoma

Ramadhani is a political analyst based in Dar es Salaam

One Comment

  1. benworth ndekile says:

    yes your right, media must be free to write about government mistakes, state can control the media tried to make conflicts between different groups of people! but not ban them if wrote about the rulers unfaithful in the government..

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