By GABBY MGAYA, 18th October 2010 @ 05:31, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 4404
I learnt an interesting term last week from a colleague who writes for Gender Links, Arthur Okwemba. The term is ‘Politics of the pocket’. The crust of the matter in Okwemba’s article is the alleged media’s denial of access to women candidates in favour of male contestants ‘’who offer handsome allowances’’ to journalists to win maximum and referential coverage.
Now this is a very serious allegation, coming at this time when Tanzania is inching closer to the fourth general elections on October 31 that would see registered voters picking their preferred candidates for the two state houses on the Mainland and Zanzibar, the Union Parliament, Zanzibar House of Representatives and the local councils.
In short, and that is very unfortunate indeed, if Okwemba has got his statistics and facts right, especially his other allegation or ‘finding’ that some media houses have been
propelling some of the candidates into power.
The aspiration towards 50-50 gender representation ratio in the legislative bodies in Southern Africa would surely take a dent if what Okwemba has found out is true. Yet Okwemba has other supporters.
In its recent report, Synovate, the research company that has been monitoring election coverage in Tanzanian elections in addition to other research work, reported its finding that women candidates were missing out in the media.
As the unofficial Fourth Estate, the media is a powerful tool that influences the decision of voters through their opinion and critique. If the media in this country has been doing what has been alleged, than the male politicians are at an advantageous position to during elections than their female counterparts.
But the allegations also smack of corruption if the media or the personnel in them have really been receiving cash inducement from male contestants in return for special coverage.
Okwemba further notes: ‘’Women politicians in Tanzania are not going to gain from this supremacy of the media to influence voting patterns. Indeed, recent studies have confirmed that women politicians are seriously underrepresented in the country’s media’’.
To substantiate his finding, the writer quotes a Gender and Media Progress Study, 2010, conducted by Gender Links, shows that only 18 per cent of those interviewed on politics in Tanzania were women, while 13 per cent of the women who spoke to the media were in the political occupation category.
There had been sincere calls to aspiring women politicians to rise above their traditionally preferred ‘Special Seats’ election status and start contesting at constituency level. If some of the media are doing what has been alleged, then that practice is unethical and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
Forget about the possible factors towards this state of affairs that Okwemba has mentioned including the ‘fact’ that male politicians are richer, that they have amassed more wealth than their female counterparts and are thus in a position to buy the media.
Journalism’s professional ethics have always called for greater objectivity and media houses must ensure just that lest they are accused of being money mongers.
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