Why Tanzania's journalism is at a crossroads

14Nov 2018
Mtapa Wilson
Financial Times
Why Tanzania's journalism is at a crossroads

In this interview with Financial Times staff writer MTAPA WILSON, the Tanzania Media Foundation (TMF)’s interim executive director FAUSTA MUSOKWA (pictured) opens up about herself and her views about the role of the Tanzanian media in evolving times. Excerpts:


QUESTION: Please tell us a little bit about yourself (age, family background,  education, etc)

ANSWER: What does one say? I studied social anthropology and literature in English at undergraduate level, and then followed up with a masters degree in social development and communication. Information – how we define it, collect it, use it, disseminate it, store it, and manipulate it towards our own ends - fascinates me. I am currently the interim executive director of the Tanzania Media Foundation.


Q: What was your first job?

A: I worked as a waitress during my first year in university, and then throughout my undergraduate studies, as a tutor, front desk officer, and orientation assistant. But my first job as a graduate was in the media, as a features writer.


Q: Who has had the biggest impact on your career?

A: I believe my choices, interests, mistakes, work ethic, and so on have had the biggest impact on my career. At the same time, I recognise that I got my first job simply because someone was willing to take a chance on me and that person gave me the opportunity to grow.


Q: What parts of your current job worry you the most?

A: I prefer to think of them as challenges. I lead a small team of people in an organisation that aims to transform the media in Tanzania. It’s a huge scope of work which at any one point needs a different set of ingredients mixed together in a particular way in order to make it work. Every day, our main challenge is how to remain dynamic, agile and responsive to the needs of the media sector.


Q: What would you say is the secret of your success?

A: I used to sign off my email with the quote ‘to be successful, you have to be either first, best or different.’ Being different includes choosing to define success differently. This sums it up for me, is 100 per cent attainable, and is an open secret.


Q: What are the best things that you like about Tanzania?

A: I love our history of being engaged in the African struggle for liberation. I also love that we have had the courage to experiment – with ujamaa, with Kiswahili, with the Tanganyika-Zanzibar alliance. We have been ridiculed, mocked, threatened and misunderstood, but we have not been afraid to be different and to set out on a path that others have not walked before us. We won’t be here three or four hundred years from now, but Tanzania will be remembered for these things if we realise now how unique they make us.


Q: What are the things that you hate most about Tanzania?

A: What is there to hate? Sure, I am impatient with where we are in history, but I see that as a challenge rather than cause to hate.


Q: What are your future career plans?

A: The media and communication sector is a challenging and exciting one to work in. I plan to continue to meaningfully contribute to its development in Tanzania.


Q: What do you do to relax after a stressful week in the office?

A: I read, write, or take my children out. Seeing my children happy puts things in better perspective.


Q: How can Tanzania realize its full potential?

A: Every single Tanzanian has a role to play in this. We need to rally behind a common vision. You can’t do that without a really good national communication strategy. I believe that as a beginning, as a country, we need to apply one of the basic principles of effective communication to the development sector – it is always two-way.


Q: What is your assessment of the state of financial journalism in Tanzania?

A: There are some very good journalists in Tanzania at all levels; great minds, with incredible ideas, a lot of courage and commitment to the field of journalism. However, we generally haven’t yet done a very good job of bringing those pockets of greatness together so that the sector can advance. Journalism generally, globally, is at a crossroads and it is crying out to be reinvented. In contexts like these, solutions can come up when least expected. So my assessment would be that we need to invent and build up a type of financial journalism that works for Tanzania.


Q: How is TMF assisting the media in Tanzania to build capacity for data journalism and coverage of the extractive industry?

A: TMF works to strengthen media for accountability. When we build capacity, such as we have done in investigative and data journalism and in thematic areas such as the extractives industry, maternal health or reporting development, it is in order to enhance accountability. We have given out almost 100 institutional grants, linked hundreds of journalists to mentors and resource people, and organised learning sessions to help them develop and strengthen their professional networks. Journalists can visit https://learning.tmf.or.tz/ for more opportunities.


Q: How can TMF and the Financial Times newspaper of Tanzania forge a partnership to promote financial journalism?

A: TMF can tailor make a programme specific to your needs. Talk to us!


Q: What role can the Tanzanian media play to ensure effective management of the country's natural resources?

A: The media has a huge role to play in disseminating information and helping people to understand what is going on with respect to natural resource management in the country.


Q: What your general assessment of the state of the media in Tanzania?

A: TMF monitors media trends and performance, and also designs and implements media development interventions. We have documented several cases of media promoting accountability; the next step is to move from isolated cases to media operating at this level all the time. The laws regulating the media sector also need to catch up.


Q: What should be done to improve the local media industry?

A: What TMF is doing is building capacity, injecting funds into the sector for public interest and investigative journalism and for strengthening media businesses, and promoting learning not just around media production but also media regulation and media business.

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