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East African countries plan communication conference at SAUT

The Communication Association is of paramount importance in the EAC like the establishment of EAC common market and other EAC protocols. Opening the second conference at St Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) at the main campus, the Vice Chancellor, Rev Charles Kitima said that the conference focused on how communicators can trade and promote regional integration.

He said that this can look at the way mainstream media in Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Tanzania in a move to promote the common market for the East African (EAC) and Southern Africa (COMESA). The Vice inculcated Media and Communication in the regional development of the political and Economic arena that could facilitate the communities around the East African community. In this circumstance, the media’s role and relationship is seen in the region not articulating solution for communities’ problems because most leaders in the region fear journalists, a problem that has led to appalling relationship amid journalists and administrators.

The conference objective was to promote academic discussion and knowledge creation in the field of education and public relations. This aim at continuing to address issues relating to the East African integration so as to clear up the existing fear among EAC member state leaders to friendly manner. The participants came from professionals’ field of academic institutions, NGOs and media practitioners from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The participants discussed challenges and strengths that arose deliberations aim to strike a balance and show weaknesses, which has cropped up since the establishment of this association and the way forward. The conference focused on how to enhance the EAC communication Association in the region among other things to write news that reflect on the EAC community problems.

Speakers presented papers on media relations in emerging democracies comparative analysis of statutory and voluntary media council in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Prof Murej Mak’Ochieng from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa said that the journalists are no threat to anybody. On the contrary they are there for seeking objective, fair and balance reporting.

Prof. Mak’Ochieng added that all present wars are due to African natural resources and if communicators do not articulate information on problems facing EAC, the regional will remain in conflicting politics. Dr Levy Obonyo, who is a Day star University in Nairobi Kenya senior lecturer says fear of journalists in the region was something related to dissemination of information that reflects on problems which are facing communities around the region.

He said that EAC member states leaders feared journalists, who articulated information related to scandals that ended to either firing or prompted some government leaders to resign. Another fear by the EAC leaders has been about the speed of journalists with which journalist raised issues in underdeveloped communities and support which have been given to journalists by the communities in accepting the job of journalists than those of governments in the region, he noted.

Sr Ester Murray, assistant lecturer department of journalism and mass communication (SAUT) says that the state has been struggling to monopolize the media’s move to protect the society by making coverage of the flow of information based on economic development. She insisted that media and communicators field have always tried to force the government to be responsible to its citizens.

Sr Murray added that the government has been curtailing media freedom by censoring some information, contrary to the government is not published. The conference also had a purpose to draw Africans experience of constructive models that develops more constructive media and journalists in executing its mandate. Media has not been the Fourth Estate but part of the state, but on the other hand the media cannot be working without boundaries other than it should be regulated to make journalists self-regulated.

This is because the media raised issues which are for the public interests, while other issues were striking for individuals, something which has created a gap in communities and media personnel. This has created an atmosphere of violence against journalists, although such cases are negligible in Tanzania as compared to Kenyan, Ugandan and Rwanda. The discussant, Mr Barrack Otyenoh a SAUT lecturer department of Journalism and Mass Communication elaborated why fear of the broadcasting and print media in the region as these are taken as installation of political means or lackeys to control all matters pertaining to politics to be in power.

Dr Clinton Peel from Zimbabwe who was facilitating the media relations topic said that media has not articulated community issues that reflect on problems solution. This is related to the east African integration on which he observed that the integration refers to trade, EAC security, community development and boosting of economy. Sr Mary Nalukwago department of journalism and mass communication (SAUT) says recent years have witnessed a transition and expedition for an integration of regions into communities.

East Africa is not outstanding to this quest with the media and communication being the key players in the regional development of political and economic arena. The role of the media and communication on the other hand inversely supports development of the political and economic arena.

Dr Nhamo Mhiiripiri from Zimbabwe gave experience on broadcasting policy implementations in finalizing and harmonizing three-tier broadcasting culture, saying that southern African countries are nearly all moving towards the three-tier pluralism of their broadcasting systems in line with major global trends and the best prescriptions of the African Chatter of broadcasting.

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