Media owners and editors attending a meeting in Dar es Salaam yesterday were unanimous that the peace prevailing in the country is a priceless asset that Tanzanians without exception ought to feel obliged to jealously safeguard.
They said peace has nothing to do with one’s tribe, one’s religious affiliation or the colour of one’s skin and no one is spared the disastrous consequences of its absence.
The meeting, jointly organised by the Media Owners Association of Tanzania (MOAT) and the Tanzania Editors Forum, was called specifically to deliberate on recent events in the country generally viewed as suggesting serious danger for peace and harmony.
MOAT and TEF chairmen Reginald Mengi and Absalom Kibanda, respectively, co-chaired the forum. They underscored the need for delegates and the media fraternity generally to demonstrate their patriotism by doing the utmost to consolidate cordial relations among all Tanzanians and desist from engaging in anything that might jeopardise the peace, tranquility and unity the country has enjoyed for decades.
The meeting came up with a raft of resolutions and recommendations meant to help shape the way forward in efforts to ensure that these “assets” are not lost but are in fact maintained and consolidated.
MOAT Executive Secretary Henry Muhanika read the resolutions, saying the two parties had committed themselves to ensuring that editors observe the ethics guiding their profession and make the interests of Tanzania and Tanzanians their number one priority.
They also agreed to set national agendas on “critical issues” such as those relating to security and law and order as well as the economy and the national ethic.
It was also resolved that editors should continue to see the need for coming together as appropriate for self-criticism sessions at which they would assess and review their operations, with a view to serving the nation to satisfaction.
Closing the meeting, Mengi reiterated the importance of media practitioners preaching and practising peace and patriotism “for the simple reason that we are all sailing in the same boat known as Tanzania and shall perish together in the event of a furious storm”.
“We must always remember that if violence breaks out, all of us will be affected. We must also remember that the majority of Tanzanians are poor people and, in the absence of peace, they will plunge into worse levels of poverty,” he said, adding that poverty and peace and not compatible.
Kibanda meanwhile stressed the need for editors to fulfil their duties diligently, the thrust of their endeavours being to distinguish themselves as responsible journalists leading by example helping in setting national agendas.
“We cannot be patriotic if we don’t have national agenda and if we do not contribute to efforts to set one. It would be simple to know who is patriotic and who is not if we have a national agenda in place,” he said.
He noted that some Members of Parliament recently pointed fingers at some media outlets they alleged were contributing to breaches of law and order and therefore threatening the peace prevailing in the country, adding that it was upon the media to prove such assertions wrong by acting professionally.
Several other delegates who contributed to the debate said journalists were duty bound to expose injustice, crime, oppression and other unbecoming behaviour and practices without fear or favour but caring for truth, accuracy and balance.
They said in conditions of injustice, the media would be at their most patriotic where they ensured that the rights and interests of underdogs are protected because that was the surest recipe for peace and harmony in society.
Free Media Deputy Managing Editor Ansbert Ngurumo criticised politicians and other people with vested interests for interfering with the work of journalists “but being allergic or hypersensitive to perceived interference by prying media practitioners in theirs”.
He said the major principle journalists worth their salt ought to observe is truth, adding: “We don’t need haranguing from outsiders (non-journalists). What we need is to fight for justice and therefore fight against all forms of injustice.”
It was also noted at the meeting that the media had played a remarkable role in respect of the process expected to lead to the writing of a new Constitution for Tanzania, in part by having contributed to the withdrawal of the first draft of the respective bill from the National Assembly.