Members of Parliament yesterday questioned the delay by the government to come up with a new Media Law, saying the situation has caused complaints among the media stakeholders in the country.
The lawmakers were contributing to the budget estimates for the Ministry of Information, Youth, Cultural and Sport for the financial year 2012/2013.
They said the government should speed up the processing of the Freedom of Information and Media Services Bill which will result into repealing of the Newspaper Act of 1976.
Presenting recommendations of the Official Opposition in the NationalAssembly, Shadow minister Joseph Mbilinyi said the process towards enactment of the new laws has taken too long, with the government giving promises each year which had never been fulfilled.
Mbilinyi said although the government has been saying that the media freedom in the country has expanded, the legal system was still repressive, thus creating doubts over the perceived freedom especially when it was granted as a gift depending on who is in power.
“The Opposition Camp wants the government to stop giving promises which cannot be implemented … in its budget this year it has also promised to come up with the bill,” Mbilinyi said.
Mbilinyi pointed out that lack of a law governing freedom of expression in the country has caused some wananchi to be threatened or arrested whenever they questioned leaders in public rallies, saying it was contrary to the country’s constitution.
He said the government has been relying on article 18 of the country’s constitution for freedom of expression without having a law to govern the section.
Mbilinyi demanded that the government state when the process for establishing the law would start so as to provide chance for wananchi to give and receive views without interference.
Reading the recommendations for the parliamentary committee on Community Development, the Committee Vice Chairman Juma Nkamia said that the government should speed up the preparations for the bill.
“It is a long time since the government withdrew the media bill for the purpose of improving it before it is tabled again to the parliament …the continued delay has raised complaints among the media stakeholders,” Nkamia said.
“Completion of this bill would pave way for the formulation of laws which will govern the media industry in the country by observing professional ethics and provide opportunity for public to access information which is a basic right as stipulated in article 18 of the country constitution.
He said his committee believes that the government will table the bill as it promised as the public was eagerly waiting for it.
The committee advised the government to continue collaborating with the Media Council of Tanzania, Tanzania Editors Forum, Media Owners Association of Tanzania, Media Institute of South Africa and Tanzania Media Fund to ensure that the main media stakeholders execute their duties professionally and by adhering to ethics.
He also advised the government to ensure that it empowers its people to access information so that they can make informed decisions.
Debating the budget estimates Kinondoni legislator Iddi Azzan said the ministry of Information, Youth, Culture and Sport should be removed because it has failed to execute its duties.
“This ministry should be a directorate because it has failed to even amend outdated laws such as the sports policy…this ministry is given about 12bn/= each year but it is doing nothing …it should be removed, Azzan insisted.
Tabling her budget estimates Minister of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports, Dr Fenella Mukangara, said the circular for the recommendations of formulating a law that will govern media has been completed and submitted to the higher government bodies for decision, before presenting it in the National Assembly later this financial year.