TEF chairman, Absalom Kibanda
Plans by the National Assembly Secretariat to halt live coverage of parliamentary sessions has attracted strong criticisms, this time from the Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) which says the move would lead to unacceptable news censorship infringing the freedom of information.
TEF explains the National Assembly plan as a dictatorial system which will lead to arrogance of ministers in responding to questions posed by legislators.
On Wednesday, the clerk to the National Assembly Dr. Thomas Kashililah told the media that the National Assembly is in the process of stopping live television broadcasting to reduce incentive for chaotic behaviour in Parliament as it has been witnessed for a while.
TEF reacted against the Bunge plans saying that making parliamentary discussion secret ground raises worries to the citizens as secrecy is the source of abusing power.
TEF urged the government to immediately stop the plan which was undermining the right to information.
TEF said that members of Parliament are representatives of their constituencies, therefore it is wrong to hide from them what goes on, without room for censorship by retransmission.
TEF chairman Absalom Kibanda told a press conference that wishing to decide what goes into media channels in relation to parliamentary activity was in pursuit of hiding negative postures.
He said that if the National Assembly succeeds in its plans, it will take away the result of efforts by the government in ensuring media freedom, and the result is a decline of national standing in global registers of media freedom.
Deodatus Balile, a TEF member, said that an attempt by the Bunge secretariat shows how much the leadership of the secretariat did not understand the importance of democracy in the country.
The governing board of the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) has expressed deep concern over government plans to curtail freedom of expression in relation to parliamentary activities.
Addressing journalists yesterday in Dar es Salaam, the MCT Executive Secretary Kajubi Mukajanga said information was an integral part of democracy and good governance. “The government should not block or limit access to crucial information which it does not wish the public to know,” he stated.
He said the right to access true and genuine information is a major pillar of good governance and the only way for the government to be close to the public is transparency.
“The planned system that the government wants to introduce is misinformed and does not promote democracy, accountability or transparency, which are guaranteed in the constitution,” he emphasised.
“The government should under no circumstances take decisions that amount to gagging the media and restrain the freedom of expression.
“We condemn the restriction imposed by the government because it obviously does not promote freedom of expression, good governance or democracy,” the MCT chief underlined.
He however recommended that the only way for the media to operate freely and fairly in a democratic state is for the government to to enact a guaranteed Media Service Bill and a bill for the Right to Information.
“The media have the right to proactively publish important information affecting the nation and every citizen has the right to seek, receive and disseminate information regardless of national boundaries,” he added.