At last the government has agreed Media Services Bill will be debated in parliament, Minister for Information, Youths, Culture and Sports, Dr Fenella Mukandara told Parliament on Tuesday this week.
She said her ministry was finalising with the country’s media stakeholders to discuss certain aspects, after which a bill would be tabled during the 12th Parliamentary Session later in November.
The minister was responding to questions from legislators, mostly from the Opposition, calling for the status of the present legislation governing media to be amended, given that it gives too much power to the minister and that it is outdated.
The legislators said the legislation was shelved for a long time and demanded the government to know plans and strategies that are in place to protect journalists.
They stated that two media services bills, Freedom of Information and the Newspaper Act of 1976, deny journalists of freedom of expression, saying the aspect has put their profession at a crossroads.
They noted that the Newspaper Act has directly empowered a minister for information at his or her own accord to suspend the publication of a newspaper in the country. This legislation was introduced during one-party system.
Contributing to the budget estimates of the ministry which was passed on Tuesday, Cecilia Pereso (Chadema-Special Seats) said Tanzanian journalists face challenges including problems to get information. She said there is a need to amend the legislation.
Amina Mwidau (Special Seats, CUF) pointed out that the stakeholders are the ones who understand the industry best and for that reason their involvement is crucial for the ministry to come up with a helpful media bill.
Juma Nkamia (Kondoa South, CCM), advised the government to conduct thorough research before bringing up the bill. If properly drafted, the law would set operating standards for journalists in Tanzania, he added.
On the Newspaper Act of 1976, Mwidau said: “The Ministry should amend the Newspaper Act of 1976, particularly the section that gives the Minister the power to prohibit newspaper publication knowing that personal interests could be involved in this.”
Rebecca Mgodo (Special Seats, Chadema), countered the motion and suggested that the media industry in Tanzania needs to change to cope with the emerging technologies to enable the stakeholders to revolutionalise the industry.