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MISA-Tanzania Statement: Four year [2006 – 2010]

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by Invisible, Apr 21, 2010.

  1. Invisible

    Invisible Admin Staff Member

    #1
    Apr 21, 2010
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    - Process in search for good Laws relating to the Right to Information must not be neglected by the Government of Tanzania


    ARUSHA, Tanzania
    April 21, 2010


    On 14 April 2010 during the current Parliament sessions in Dodoma, Hon. Damas P. Nakei, MP for Babati rural asked a question in the house wanting to know what the reasons would have to be, for a government office to deny access to information to a Member of Parliament in need of such information.

    This question, together with two other supplementary questions asked by Hon. Nakei himself and Hon. Zitto Kabwe, were responded by the Minister of State, Prime Minister’s office (Policy, and Parliamentary Coordination), Hon. Phillip Marmo who went on to detail the rights and limitations of a Member of Parliament in accessing public information quoting section 10 of the The Parliamentary Immunities, Power and Privileges Act (Cap. 296), R.E., 2002 ]regarding accessing information from public offices.

    In his response to Hon Kabwe’s supplementary question, Minister Marmo gave a statement which as a Coalition of stakeholders for the Right to Information sees the need to clarify by way of a press release. He said:

    “The conditions include the ones I enlisted as part of my supplemantary answer, but let it be reminded here that there are huge demands and worldwide, where there is a huge public demand (including parliamentarians to access information from government offices there have been some processes including laws providing greater details. Such, is normally called, Freedom of Information Act.

    In our country, for all this time, we have not received any such demand for such a Law from the general public, parliamentarians or even from the media. This is why we have continued to use the current practice”.

    Hon Samuel Sitta (MP), Speaker of the union Parliament also argued the house to learn to make use of Rule 81 which allows them to table private motions to the house or by way of a respective Parliamentary Standing Committee for debate and passing it.

    These questions by Hon. Nakei and the supplementary question by Hon Kabwe and the answers by Minister Marmo and the Hon. Speaker’s urge are all officially documented in the Hansard.

    The Coalition for the Right to Information is greatly shocked at the statement made by Hon Marmo that there has not been any demand from the public or media or Parliamentarians for a Law that will grant the right to demand for access to information that is in the hands of government and its many agencies.

    THE STAKEHOLDERS COALITION PROCESS, 2006 – 2010

    In February 2005, the URT Constitution, 1977, was amended for the 14th time to delete and introduce a new section of article 18 that provides for full rights to demand access and disseminate information notwithstanding border limitations.

    That revolutionary step proved that the government had conceded to the right to access information by its citizenry

    Numerous stages have preceded the above constitutional development including the preparation of a government Communications policy, which, trusted sources say has now been approved by the cabinet of this same fourth phase government.

    In October 2006, another historical development occurred by the government publishing on its website a draft Bill for the Freedom of Information Act, 2006.

    This particular draft Bill opened up doors for various stakeholders to initiate a national debate around this particular Bill. After some review, and in considering professional and ethical standards for such a Law in the eyes of international best practice, the released Bill was seen as being in contravention with the foundational principles of the Freedom of Information.

    Access to information from public institutions regarding whistleblower protection was seen as being downplayed and given blunt attention in that drafts Bill which also continued to place a lot of anonymity to a good number of information pieces for no reason. Since this draft Bill was seen as having a lot of deficiencies, stakeholders rejected the Bill and urged the government to give them some time for them to undertake public consultation, which was granted by the government.

    The Freedom of Information Coalition which comprises of eleven Civil Society institutions (two from outside Tanzania) organized and held meetings and public hearings countrywide in search for views on what could become best practice Freedom of Information Act in Tanzania. All along, it emerged that the public was not only interested in the Freedom to access information but wanted this to be pronounced as a basic right – hence the notion of –Right to Information in the discourse of the Coalition’s work.

    Stakeholder recommendations on a Bill for the Right to Information Act were then prepared and officially submitted to the government in August 2007, with copies of the same distributed to all members of Parliament and the cabinet, various government institutions and agencies as well as non State actors deemed interested in this particular issue. Such recommendations factored in broader national interests including the need for a transparent framework in which a normal citizen can demand for the right to particular pieces of information held in government offices. Around 7,000 copies of the recommendation booklets were disseminated to the public receiving a lot of public attention following publication of its content by numerous newspapers in the form of pullouts, feature articles, analyzes and editorials.

    Additionally, issues relating to Media Services were discussed and debated, in accordance with the principles established by the Media profession. As was advised, Media services became a separate realm leading to a separate set of recommendations for a draft Media services Bill prepared by the Coalition and submitted to the government officially in October 2008. Again, copies of such recommendation booklets were disseminated widely to all Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and key government institutions and agencies as well as non-state actors.

    Furthermore, the Coalition has had two meetings so far with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Development under the abled leadership of Hon. Jenista Mhagama, MP, whose contribution and cooperation has all along been immensely sound. The Committee has proved to be active and in true defense of national interests, judging from active contributions in improving the stakeholder recommendations.

    However, there has not been sufficient cooperation and response from the government in working towards the enactment of good information and media services Laws. For instance, there has never been an official response to all the developments made throughout the stakeholder consultation processes leading to the drafting of the recommendations despite the Coalitions attempts in keeping the government informed all the time.

    It is not known todate whether the government rejected or accepted the stakeholder recommendations. Even attempts by the Coalition to seek audience and have joint meetings with government experts to strike a common position proved futile. The Coalition wrote three times to Hon. Minister for Information, Culture and Sports, George Huruma Mkuchika on 2 February 2009; on 8 September 2009 and 30 November 2010 last year in request for such a joint meeting. The three letters notwithstanding, there has never been a response from the Minister or his Ministry, not even an acknowledgement of receipt of the communications from the Coalition!

    In a joint session between the Parliamentary Standing Committee, and the Coalition held on 20 January 2010, the Deputy Minister for Information, Culture and Sports, Hon. Joel Nkaya Bendera emphasized that the process towards the enactment of a Media Services and Control Act was underway and that the next stage was to write a certificate for tabling to the cabinet, a statement which has also been repeated by Minister Mkuchika. Inspite of all this, none of the two has explanation over the Right to Information Act process. It is our suspicion that the Information Bill has been shelved by the government!

    It is quite disappointing therefore to hear Minister Marmo say that there has never been any demand from the public, Parliament and Media for a good Law to enable every citizen to access information as they may require. The efforts made so far are not worthy the neglect that we continue to see from the government. It is now clear that the government does not want to listen to people’s views in this regard.

    The Right to Information is a basic right for every human being as guaranteed and protected in the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania and a number of international and regional instruments for the protection of human rights, most of which Tanzania is actually a signatory.

    It is a responsibility of the government to enact good Laws to enhance the accessibility of information to its citizens for the enjoyment of such rights. But if the government is not ready in this, then we would like to join hands with the House Speaker, for members of Parliament to use Rule 81 to have individual MPs or Parliamentary Committee to initiate and table a private motion for a Bill to enact a Law that would guarantee the Right to Information in Tanzania. The Coalition will be ready to work with any authority wanting to pursue this course in the future, be it a individual member or a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

    The coming of a Law that guarantees the Right to Information will facilitate the speedy progressing of Tanzania as a recognized development destination in the international sky. It is also in line with the implementation of the Millenium Development Goals which Tanzania vehemently promises to be a champion, including eradicating poverty and eliminating criminal acts and Corruption and embezzlement in public offices. This is the sure way to promote Socio-economic and political development in the country.

    The Coalition is impressed and encouraged by the fact that a good number of Tanzanians across the country participated in the preparation of the recommendation that have been submitted to the government demanding that there be the Right to Information and Media Services Bills to enact into Laws. Beyond the Bills, the Coalition has already prepared recommendations for regulations to guide the smooth implementation of the two Laws as soon as they have been enacted by Parliament.

    And in order for the two Laws to contradict with other statutes, the Stakeholder recommendations also include a proposition of existing Laws that will be in contradiction with the coming two Laws. Therefore, it is being proposed that some Laws and sections of Laws be repealed as a way of permiting the smooth implementation of the Laws to be enacted.

    The Stakeholders Coalition is led by the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) and includes in it – The Media Institute of Southern Africa, Tanzania Chapter (MISA – TAN); Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA); The Bar Association of Tanzania Mainland (TLS); Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC); Tanzania Network for Legal Education (TANLET); National Organization for Legal Assistance (nola); Media Owners Association (MOAT) and Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TNGP). Other Stakeholders in the Coalition who have offered inputs and technical expertise include the Comonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) based in India and Article XIX based in London, UK.



    SOURCE:
    Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
     
  2. Kamakabuzi

    Kamakabuzi JF-Expert Member

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    Apr 22, 2010
    Joined: Dec 3, 2007
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    Thanks invisible.

    It seems the government is not working as one organ (system). It seems what THE STAKEHOLDERS COALITION presented to the government through the ministry of information.... was not communicated by that ministry to the prime minister's office (minister of state...); and if at all it was communicated, then either Marmo was deliberately giving false information to the parliament or is too old to remember what the goverment did last year!

    Whatever the case - something is wrong in the government system!
     
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