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Zanzibar government vows to promote media freedom

Zanzibar government vows to promote media freedom

IN his message in commemorating the World Press Freedom Day-2021, the UN Secretary General António Guterres said that in many countries, journalists and media still face censorship, abuse, harassment, detention and even death, simply for doing their jobs.

He said; “I urge all governments to do everything in their power to support a free, independent and diverse media.” That was a very encouraging message from the UN boss. In Zanzibar, journalists from different media houses marked the day with organised discussions about the challenges they face and presented to the government proposed changes to the legal framework that govern their work.

The second vice president, Hemed Suleiman Abdulla was present to grace the event and said he was pleased with the on-going situation of press freedom in Tanzania. “We are committed to see that journalists and media are free,” he said.

He added that the Zanzibar’s 8th phase government under President Hussein Ali Mwinyi has been taking major steps to ensure media rights were in place, and that journalists should use the opportunity constructively while prioritizing promoting patriotism, accountability, and blue economy policy.

The Second Vice President promised at the ‘World Press Freedom Day (WPFD)’ celebrations here that the government would look-into laws that oppress press freedom in the Isles, saying the government need to strengthen its good relations with the media and journalists.

“I direct the Ministry responsible for Information, through legal procedure, to present the requests from journalists and their proposals on the ‘Media Services Act’, so that we can discuss within the government circles. I hope your proposals and suggestions will be considered,” Mr Abdulla promised.

He urged journalists to observe ethics and work on news that can help bring positive changes in the society and government such as to promote good governance and anti-corruption crusade.

The Minister for Tourism and Heritage, Ms Lela Mohamed Mussa who attended and spoke on behalf of the Information Minister, thanked press clubs: WAHAMAZA, PPC, ZPC, MCT, and TAMWA-Zanzibar for organizing the press freedom Day celebrations, “It was a good gathering that promotes government/media relations.”

Speaking on behalf of the organizers (Zanzibar development Journalists association (WAHAMAZA), Pemba Press Club (PPC), Zanzibar Press Club (ZPC), Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), and the TAMWA-Zanzibar), Mr Farouk Karim the team chairperson thanked the government for supporting Journalists. WPFD was celebrated on May 3rd this year, but Zanzibar journalists moved the date forward because of the Holy month of Ramadhan.

“We are happy to celebrate also by awarding some journalists who won in the ‘2021 Zanzibar Journalism Award,” he said. Media professionals gathered at the ‘Sheikh Idrissa Abdulwakil Hall’ at the premises of the Ministry of Tourism and antiquities in the Stone Town, for this day as the media fraternity acknowledged that there has been noticeable improvement in press freedom.

“At last we have managed to celebrate, although on the later date, at the time when the need for the strengthening of press freedom in the country has been growing,” said Dr Mzuri Issa who was one of the celebration organizing team leaders.

Ms Mzuri Issa informed the gathering of journalists and government authorities that both the media and government have to do more to strengthen the relations because the government is willingness to work with the media by drawing the line to be able to reopen the electronic, online, and print media that had been suspended in the recent past.

Dr Mzuri- Director, Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) - Zanzibar recommended the following to the government to consider in the process of writing ‘Zanzibar’s Media Services Act- 2021’ aiming at guaranteeing press freedom and protecting journalists.

She mentioned the recommendations that should be considered as having ‘Media services Board’ that will have powers to decide on issues that may emerge among media practices; have a department of information and a registrar who will be responsible of registering newspapers and magazines independently.

“The law should have clear sections or clauses that promote freedom of the press, access to information. At the celebration, the second vice president also heard journalists call for training programmes for journalists, scrapping of the Information Act No 5 of 1988 and its 1997 amendment; and of section 32 of the House of Representatives - immunities, powers and privileges) Act No. 4 of 2007.

They also requested for scrapping of the censorship and cinematographic exhibition Act No. 1 of 2009; deletion of sections 19, 36, and 90 of the Education Act no. 1 of 1980 as amended by Act no. 3 of 2007; deletion of section 47 of the Penal Act no.6 of 2004 as amended in 2018; and the review of section 5 of the National security Act- 1970; for free flow of information.

The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 as World Press Freedom Day in the year 1993. This declaration came after a recommendation made in 1991 at the twenty-sixth General Conference session of UNESCO. The declaration also came as a result of the 1991 Windhoek Declaration-- a statement produced by African journalists about press freedom, presented at a seminar held by UNESCO, which concluded on May 3.

The day is celebrated to ensure the protection and safety of the press in the face of attacks against its independence, to discuss journalistic ethics and to celebrate journalists who gave their lives in the pursuit of truth. The theme for World Press Day 2021 is “Information as a Public Good”.

Three topics were highlighted at this year’s World Press Freedom Day 2021 Global Conference, as per the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialised agency of the United Nations aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the sciences, and culture.

‘Steps to ensure the economic viability of news media; Mechanisms for ensuring transparency of Internet companies; and Enhanced Media and Information Literacy (MIL) capacities that enable people to recognize and value, as well as defend and demand, journalism as a vital part of information as a public good’ were the topics highlighted.

At the core of UNESCO’s mandate is freedom of the press and freedom of expression. UNESCO believes that these freedoms allow for mutual understanding to build a sustainable peace. Press Day serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom.

It is also a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered. According to UNESCO it is a date to encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom, and to assess the state of press freedom worldwide.

Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.

“The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, was “Information as a Public Good”, and according to Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of WPFD underlines the indisputable importance of verified and reliable information, and that it calls attention to the essential role of free and professional journalists in producing and disseminating this information, by tackling misinformation and other harmful content.

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