According to MCT executive secretary Kajubi Mukajanga, increasing incidences of violence and humiliation of journalists across the country need to be nipped in the bud forthwith.
Mukajanga was speaking on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, whose national focus this year was on the current state of the media in the country particularly in relation to safety of media practitioners.
The Media Services Act of 2016 recognises journalists’ rights to collect, process and publish news, thus making any obstruction of that process a criminal offence. But Mukajanga noted that most of such cases not only go unpunished, but local scribes are instead being increasingly harassed, oppressed, and generally humiliated.
He said in a bid to protect and safeguard journalists and their media houses, MCT and other stakeholders have agreed to take such cases of violent obstruction of journalistic work to court whenever they arise.
“The MCT is not satisfied at all with the current state of media freedom in the country,” he said, pointing out that several local journalists have been harassed and threatened in the recent past while at least five Kiswahili newspapers have been banned in the past six months alone.
He named at least one journalist who has lately been an open victim of violent harassment in the line of duty as Halfani Lihundi of the Independent Television (ITV) network, who was placed in police detention under the order of former Arumeru district commissioner Alexander Mnyeti.
The impunity nature of the matter is underlined by the fact that Mnyeti has since been promoted to regional commissioner.
Mukajanga asserted that the police, regional and district commissioners, and other government officials often tend to be unfriendly with the media for no justifiable reason.
“Abuse of power, misuse of the laws, oppression and brutality accompanied by intimidation statements from government leaders...all this adds to the pressures of media operations and the working environment for journalists,” he explained.
According to the MCT chief executive officer, over the past two years the entire media sector has been haunted by day-to-day uncertainties that lead journalists to fail to implement their roles effectively.
An MCT statement reiterated that the right to receive information and freedom of expression is part of fundamental and basic social rights.
“Such rights and freedoms are clearly recognized and protected by the constitutions of African countries, together with international and regional declarations, that include an agreement on the regulation for freedom of expression in Africa passed by the Africa Commission for Human Rights and People in 2002,” the statement noted.
MCT programme officer Paul Malimbo said the council keeps a register of every incident involving the use of violence against journalists in the course of the work within the country.
“Since the register was introduced in 2012, we have already recorded more than 30 such incidents, whereby for this year alone the number is 20,” Malimbo said.
He called on journalists to start reporting in detail such incidents of violence against them or their colleagues to the council, in order to ensure the presence of accurate information to support the filing of court cases.
“But the council also urges reporters and editors to adhere to high levels of professionalism and ethics in the whole process of collecting, processing and printing of news,” Malimbo added.
He described such adherence to professional ethics as the best defence against people who try to intimidate them and infringe upon the freedom and rights of the media in general.