Tanzania: Media Legislation to Wait Longer

Regulation & Policy

The eagerly awaited laws to regulate media operations in Tanzania may not be ready for enactment by Parliament this year as most stakeholders had anticipated, it has emerged.

The minister for Information, Youth, Culture and Sports, Dr Emmanuel Nchimbi told Parliament yesterday that the government was still drawing the policy for the law to regulate media services and was also still in the process of drafting the right to information bill.

"The ministry is currently in the process of drawing a new information policy as well as finalising the draft bill for the enactment of the law to supervise the media," said Dr Nchimbi in Dodoma during the tabling of his ministry's revenue and expenditure plan for the 2011/2012 financial year. He asked the House to approve Sh18.5 billion for the year in recurrent and development expenditure. Only Sh3.881bn would be for development.

With the current 10th Parliament meeting ending later this month, and the last session for the year expected in October or November, it is likely that there would be not enough time for stakeholders to discuss the final draft of the media services and right to information bills in time for the minister to bring them to Parliament this year.

It means therefore that the eagerly awaited laws, especially the right to information one would still not be operational by 2012, over five years since discussions towards repealing the restrictive media law started.

President Jakaya Kikwete promised the legislation in 2006 at one of his meetings with news editors, but a scheduled tabling in 2007 was put off pending consultations with all stakeholders.

The delay in enacting this law could also result in exertion of more pressure from the donor community and members of the civil society, who have openly stated their desire to see the laws operationalised. The quick passage of the Right to Information Bill is, in fact, one of the key conditionality given by donors for their continued budgetary support to government during the next financial year.

The other is the Public Leadership Code of Ethics Bill and the Whistleblowers Bills the donors see as crucial in accountability, good governance and fighting corruption.

Dr Nchimbi, who did not give timelines on the anticipated new laws, however, said the government remained committed to working closely with all stakeholders to ensure the media in the country operated freely, effectively and efficiently.

He hailed the media for a good work and credited their efforts to a more informed and enlightened public today. Giving their views, the Parliamentary Committee for Social Services spokesperson Juma Nkamia (Kondoa South-CCM) and the shadow minister for the ministry Joseph Mbilinyi (Mbeya Urban-Chadema), expressed the need to have the matter concluded without delay.

"My committee believes that it is important for the State to pass the media regulation and the right to information laws to enable journalists, media owners and other media organs to operate and regulate themselves while safeguarding ethics and national interests," said Nkamia.

Mbilinyi said the opposition was concerned at the delay and questioned why the government was taking too long to act. "The law on media freedom and the right for Tanzanians to get information is important and should be respected as provided for in the constitution," he said, cautioning that it will not be desirable for any kind of arm-twisting of the views that have been proposed by various parties.

Part of the delay has been blamed on arriving at levels of media freedom, with parties haggling around a totally free media but others, including MPs and those in government rooting for stiff sanctions against journalists and media owners who unreasonably misuse their power by attacking public figures.