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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Why Swiss praise for MCT matters

16th January 2012
Editorial cartoon

The Media Council of Tanzania on Friday held official talks with Switzerland’s Ambassador to Tanzania, Olivier Chave, whose delegation also included high-ranking representatives of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

A number of reasons made both parties place special emphasis on the occasion, easily the most important being that it is Switzerland – through SDC – that is the coordinating donor of the council’s basket funding.

It is noteworthy that SDC and the council are due to sign an agreement later this month on the modalities of implementing MCT’s new four-year “programme strategy”, to run from this year through 2015, which MCT executive secretary Kajubi Mukajanga has described as very ambitious but viable and which has left Ambassador Chave “hugely impressed”.

We have it on good authority that the Swiss delegation was briefed on the whole range of activities the council has concerned itself with since its birth in mid-1995 as an independent, voluntary non-statutory body out to promote freedom of the media in Tanzania, its official registration two years later and its launch on August 16, 1997.

But the team was also briefed on the daunting challenges the council has been contending with over the years as well as on how it has lined itself up to face the future.

At the end of the deliberations, and despite the various odds cited during the briefing, Ambassador Chave was quoted as having heaped praise on the council for a job well done.

Having witnessed the headway the council has made in accomplishing its mission, which is to create an environment that enables the growth of strong and ethical media contributing to the creation of a more democratic and just society, we stand convinced that the accolades were not what one could dismiss as empty diplomatic rhetoric.

Media practitioners both Tanzanian and foreign, friends of the Tanzanian media and the larger public know the impressive extent to which MCT has gone in helping journalism in Tanzania become truly professional and therefore both responsive to the nation’s needs and aspirations and accountable to the people it ought to serve.

In part, this has been attained through training and other forms of empowerment, crusading for media-friendly laws, and stressing the need for both the media and members of the public to prefer mediation and arbitration to recourse to strictly legal action in the event of perceived offences by either party.

The Dar es Salaam Declaration on Editorial Freedom, Independence and Responsibility (DEFIR), which MCT adopted on February 18, 2011 and soon after opened for endorsement by media stakeholders, is widely expected to help the media operate in a more conducive environment and therefore perform more freely and responsibly. This would be a big plus for Tanzania.

As noted above, it has seldom been smooth sailing for the council or indeed the country’s media fraternity in general. Financial constraints, legal impediments and various other factors have put journalism in Tanzania at serious peril – and not only because there are people yet to take it as seriously as other professions such as engineering, law and medicine.

Having a stronger, self-sustaining MCT would solve most of these problems, and this is why any support going its way matters.

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