In Tanzania, Journalists report and write on all injustices done to other people, except themselves.
They report on under-paid workers, exploited house girls, demonstrating workers and the list is endless.
But they never write about their own predicament. Neither do Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) speak for them. I remember some years back, on one Labour Day when former Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Yusuf Makamba stood up to address workers gathered for the celebrations at the national stadium.
He started by asking the journalists present why they never report about their plight. Things like poor working conditions, poor pay and delayed payment, among others. Makamba challenged the journalists to speak for themselves first before speaking for others.
It’s because of such injustices in the sector that Denis Mpagaze, a journalism lecturer at St Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) plans to do a study on the injustices many journalists in the country face.
“The issue disturbs my mind a lot and I am in the process of carrying out research on the matter. Some journalists are poorly paid, have no job security, others have no job contracts, but you cannot read, watch or hear these injustices reported in any media,” Mpagaze says.
Neither do CSOs address journalists’ problems. Last year, Mpagaze presented a paper on the matter in Nairobi titled: My family forces me to take bribes: A reflection of economy of affection among Tanzanian journalists.
He said that the situation has contributed to unethical journalism held with kind of bribes in the country and the continent at large.
He said low wages for journalists and greed for riches popularly were contributing to the deterioration of the profession. "There's no doubt that the issue of professional ethics will be sidelined when the issues of economic hardship and low salary comes in." he said.
Citing an editor of the 102.1, Sheger FM, a private radio station, he cited the cynicism regarding money-driven journalism among professionals.
The president of the journalist association in his contribution was quoted saying “Without improving the life of the journalist, corruption can’t be stopped. As long as a journalist needs to eat bread with banana and we avoid the issue of raising journalists’ salaries, it is not meaningful to organize such a forum,” he said, adding “we can’t eliminate corruption in such a way.”
The statement that, “without improving the life situation of journalists, corruption cannot be stopped,” Mpagaze says, leaves a lot to be desired. He says one would ask, “what about those people who are well paid and yet take bribes?”
He says, for example, that in Cameroon there is prevalence of corruption within comparatively well-paid media establishments such as CRTV. If we adjust the salaries of journalists and even raise the socio-economic conditions for journalists, bribery will remain a cancer of journalism.
He says the point for departure on bribery in most of African countries including in Tanzania is the economy of affection.
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, ‘The economy of affection’ is a term that describes a network of interactions, communications and support among certain peasant groups in parts of East Africa and was introduced by Goran Hyden.
These groups are identified in terms of their relationship to structure, united by kinship, community, religion or other affinities and the functional purposes of this economy of affection involves survival, social maintenance and development.
Mpagaze says the economy of affection among journalists in the country equals with the reciprocal investment which literally means 'a helping hand today generates returns tomorrow.’
In Africa, a person helps you expecting future reward. Paying school fees for a child is a responsibility of the society or a clan and when a person gets a job should not enjoy alone. Likewise in politics today, a member of parliament must give his voters some rewards so that in the future he can win the election.
Bribery among journalists in Tanzania is widespread and goes in various euphemisms namely kitu kidogo, mshiko and kikandamizo cha stori." Without providing bribes to some journalists a story would not be published and this needs to be clearly addressed to set it off,” says Mpagaze.
He explains that one who intends to a call press conference must prepare mshiko for those who will attend otherwise he/she should expect zero coverage. These examples he said show that there is a gap between what the journalism profession stands for and what journalists practice.
“This is what I say we have a problem somewhere and it must be addressed in a way that yields positive results,” he says.
This month media houses reported Human right activists and lawyers challenging the government to repeal or review laws which sought to have negative consequences on the lives of women, girls and other vulnerable social groups in the country.
Upon their claims they pointed out that gender imbalances, social inequalities and related problems in Tanzania’s society are supported by the existence of outdated and discriminatory laws.
Executive Director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre Hellen Kijo-Bisimba in an interview said: “The government is struggling to eliminate gender inequality between men and women…but the main source of the imbalance is existence of discriminatory laws.”
She cited some of such laws as the Citizenship Act, Inheritance Customary Act-1963 and the Marriage Act of 1971, enacted during the time when there were few female lawmakers.
However, it is the media industry also which worked tirelessly to broadcast and publish day to day updates concerning the doctors' strike in the country. Among other things, Mpagaze says that it’s only through true journalism each creature under the sun can enjoy the cake, and this remains his only ambition.