Tanzania’s ranking improves in World Press freedom stakes


Oct 19, 2007
Si vibaya tukajipongeza kwa hizi hatua chache

Sunday, October 21 2007
Dar es Salaam

TANZANIA has jumped 33 positions in new rankings measuring the level of press freedom in 169 countries around the world and published this week by Reporters Without Borders.

According to the 2007 index, Tanzania is now perceived to have a much higher degree of press freedom than all other countries in East Africa. The country is ranked 55th overall, a notable improvement compared to its 88th position last year.

In this year’s index, Kenya is ranked at 78, Uganda (97), Burundi (127) and Rwanda (147).

And elsewhere across the world, Eritrea has replaced North Korea in last place in the 169-country index.

’’There is nothing surprising about this,’’ Reporters Without Borders said. ’’Even if we are not aware of all the press freedom violations in North Korea and Turkmenistan, which are second and third from last, Eritrea deserves to be at the bottom.’’

It is noted that ’’the privately-owned press in Eritrea has been banished by authoritarian president Issaias Afeworki and the few journalists who dare to criticise the regime are sent off to prison camps.’’

According to Reporters Without Borders, four Eritrean journalists have already died in detention ’’and we have every reason to fear that others will suffer the same fate.’’

It says outside Europe - in which the top 14 countries are located - no region of the world has been spared censorship or violence towards journalists.

Of the 20 countries at the bottom of the index, seven are Asian (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Laos, Vietnam, China, Burma, and North Korea); five are African (Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Somalia and Eritrea); four are in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Palestinian Territories and Iran); three are former Soviet republics (Belarus, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan); and one is in the Americas (Cuba).

’’We are particularly disturbed by the situation in Burma (ranked 164th),’’ Reporters Without Borders said. ’’The military junta’s crackdown on demonstrations bodes ill for the future of basic freedoms in that country. Journalists continue to work under the yoke of harsh censorship from which nothing escapes, not even small ads.’’

It continues: ’’We also regret that China (163rd) stagnates near the bottom of the index. With less than a year to go to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the reforms and the releases of imprisoned journalists so often promised by the authorities seem to be a vain hope.’’

War is largely responsible for the low position assigned to some countries. It is said that the increase in fighting in Somalia (159th) and Sri Lanka (156th) has made it very hard for journalists to work, several have been killed and censorship stepped up as clashes became frequent as ’’the belligerents refuse to recognise journalists’ rights and accuse them of supporting the other side.’’

According to Reporters Without Borders, the Internet is occupying more and more space in the breakdown of press freedom violations. ’’Several countries fell in the ranking this year because of serious, repeated violations of the free flow of online news and information,’’ it says
Hili hata mimi nakubaliana nalo kwamba Tanzania sasa freedom of press iko juu ukilinganisha na nchi nyingi za Afrika. Ni hatua nzuri sana japo haitoshi.

Tatizo tulilo nalo ni kwa kazi ya uandishi wa habari kuvamiwa na watu wasio na elimu ya kutosha kwenye nyanja hiyo. Pia sasa tuna waandishi wa habari walanguzi ambao wako tayari kuandika chochote hata kama sio sahihi kwa malipo.

Hongera kwa baadhi ya waandishi wetu kwa kujituma bila woga.
source: Embassy of Sweden Dar es Salaam - News

May 3 2009

Tanzania could lead in Press Freedom - Article by Ambassador Herrström on World Press Freedom Day

On 3 May, the World Press Freedom Day, the following article by Ambassador Staffan Herrström was published in the daily Tanzanian newspaper The Citizen.

Today is the World Press Freedom Day – a day when we certainly have good reasons to celebrate achievements, not least here in Tanzania mainland. But it is also a day for reflection on remaining challenges and how to address them.

I want to take the opportunity to question and challenge three common misconceptions in the area of transparency and media freedom.

Firstly: Some people think that secrecy is something that often lies in the interest of the state. On the contrary I would say that secrecy very seldom lies in the interest of the state. Why? Simply because the culture of secrecy makes it possible to hide bad governance in the dark which makes individual gains possible for a few, but causes large damage to the common interests of all Tanzanians.

When writing this article I was encouraged to read the statement on right to information by the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Mathias Chikawe in Geneva in March this year: ''Tanzania is staunch believer in the freedom of expression and opinion as provided for in our constitution. We want to enact this law to give people more freedom of expression and access to information''.

I think this was certainly what the UN Human Rights Council wanted to hear, not least knowing that there are still outdated and quite "draconian" pieces of legislation in force in Tanzania – twenty seven I have been told. Since there is now a legislative process ongoing on right to information and on freedom of media, Tanzania has a golden opportunity to set an example. Be bold, daring and radical. Make transparency the common rule and secrecy the rare exception!

Do it because it is the most effective way of making sure that the state is acting in the interest of its citizens rather than in the private interests of politicians or civil servants. Transparency is key for that control – and key for building confidence in society. Take for instance the issue of declaration of assets for public leaders. Without a high degree of public access to that kind of information such declarations tend to be less useful and effective. With secrecy comes also a culture of rumours, suspicion, mistrust and mistakes. That is unhealthy for any state and certainly for its citizens. Now, Tanzania could become a real champion in this area. Why not take the opportunity?

Secondly: A rather common view is that freedom of the press primarily is a freedom for media and journalists. It is not. It is of course most often used by journalists but it is a freedom that makes it possible for journalists to investigate and scrutinize and thus provide checks and balances to powerful forces – in the state as well as in the private sector – primarily in the interest and on behalf of the citizens. And it also provides opportunities to the same citizens to freely express their opinions and have them efficiently spread to others. That's democracy in day-to-day practice. Attempts to describe media freedom in terms of privileges to journalists are mostly aimed at creating arguments for restrictions – again in the interest of individuals in power rather than in the interest of ordinary cititizens.

Thirdly: Some people think that you need to have restrictive laws to fight unethical journalism and so called yellow press. You don't. A self regulatory mechanism is a much more efficient way to combine freedom of the media with responsibility taking among professional journalists. This understanding and acknowledgement was clearly expressed by the Chief Justice Augustino Ramadhani in December last year spelling out the advantages with selfregulation and emphasising that free-will is superior to the use of force.

Tanzania has particularly good conditions for this since there is an independent and professional Media Council (MCT) already at work. MCT is known all over Africa and elsewhere for its respectable efforts of self-regulating the media practitioners to act professionally and ethically in this ever intricate multiple media context. Mediation and adjudication done by MCT on inter media disputes or disputes between individuals and media are excellent practical examples on how to deal with these challenges.

Now, Tanzania mainland has made major achievements in terms of increased pluralism and improved investigative journalism. I hope this World Press Freedom day will be used as an inspiration for even further improvements all over the country.

Staffan Herrström
Ambassador of Sweden to Tanzania
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