Well done, President Samia, for restoring media freedom

07Apr 2021
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Well done, President Samia, for restoring media freedom

SIGHS of relief and near-unanimous expressions of support were being heard most of yesterday for the new orientation by President Samia Suluhu Hassan towards restoring media freedom and “discharging from prison” banned newspapers and online media outlets.

The new measures were largely expected, as they follow in the same direction as remarks by the president late last week after she had sworn in cabinet ministers and deputy ministers who were appointed for the first time or had changed portfolios.

The vehement derision of strong-arm ways of revenue collection that the president expressed was a sigh of relief for the private sector, and most of the media are part of the private sector as well and were suffering from hefty fines and draconian closures of outlets.

After the president declared that she was Tanzania’s sixth president, some people may not have clearly understood the inner significance of that assertion – but the message is now surely beginning to sink in.

While relentlessly pursuing the cause of devoted service to the public, especially zero tolerance for bribes and embezzlement, the president is moving to correct drawbacks in that stance where righting wrongs in the government takes centre-stage. The two are by no means opposed, as regulators appeared to believe.

It is also apparent that what was being done to the media was largely the same as what was happening to investors. As President Samia emphasized, negative attitudes putting away investors have grossly disrupted industrial and service sector growth, and thus the provision of jobs.

During what is now known as the fourth industrial revolution, jobs are created mainly in the services sector, where the profit margins are minimal as the competition is rife given the duplication of facilities and survival by ‘social distancing’ that enables stylistic competition. The media are also service providers and can only flourish in liberty.

This sentiment pervading the media sector was already being expressed at the weekend during Easter, where bishops issued message upon message clearly showing how intensely hope was spreading on the Samia government, brimming with confidence in the new leadership.

True, there was the customary emphasis on the need for Tanzanians to maintain peace, unity and love, as clerics underlined that these values are decisive in facilitating development.

The clerics’ confidence and faith in the leadership vision shown by President Samia was abundantly an expression of the spirit of Easter, which points to rebirth or resurrection. 

For instance, Archbishop Isaac Amani of the Arusha Catholic archdiocese expressed intense concerns over environmental destruction in various parts of the country.

He noted that some regions are at risk of turning into semi-desert, adding that massive tree cutting was contributing to climate change and food insecurity.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) Northern Diocese Bishop Dr Solomon Massangwa was as emphatic, literally assuring the congregation that closed businesses would re-open under the leadership of President Samia.

He further hoped and prayed that divinity would, through President Samia, “revive all the dead companies, heal the sick and bring new hopes amidst unemployment challenge”. This expectation is building up in the minds of countless individuals – and very understandably so.

In other aspects of Easter greetings, there were reflections on a number of things, notably Covid-19 fears. The overall focus was, however, on peace and harmony and inspiring appeals by the president and the vice president about the need to foster good work ethics and not harming key stakeholders in the economy. 

Returning to a more traditional theme, Archbishop Jude Thaddaeus Ruwa’ichi of the Dar es Salaam archdiocese meanwhile urged Tanzanians to build a culture of assisting one another, the target of assistance being especially those living in difficult conditions.

He also underscored the importance of worshippers maintaining the faith and valuing scripture by remembering the needy wherever they are.

“What we celebrate today means God’s mercy to the people. We have been set free, so let us continue maintaining peace and have faith,” declared the archbishop, uniting peace and charity themes.

For his part, ELCT head Bishop Dr Frederick Shoo expressed confidence in President Samia, urging Tanzanians to “get ready for the development journey”.

In his Easter homily at the ELCT Northern Diocese central parish in Moshi Urban, he expressed optimism that President Samia would lead the nation in a way underlined and cemented by faith.

Some clerics returned to the Covid-19 theme in their sermons – with Father Ludovick Minde of the Christ the King Parish in Moshi, saying that despite the global pandemic, there was still hope for the future of humankind.

But perhaps it was the head of the Anglican Church of Tanzania at St Alban Parish in downtown Dar es Salaam, Canon John Mlekano, who laid the most intense emphasis on the pandemic in reported messages.

He stressed the need for Tanzanians to disabuse themselves of fears over the pandemic and to be especially careful in examining proposed vaccines.

The cleric stuck with the prayer thrust and having faith in God, while stressing the need to continue taking precautions by washing hands with soap and running water or using alcohol-based hand rubs – more commonly known as sanitisers.

The more prominent ethical motif in most of the Easter messages was the hope raised countrywide after the Tanzania Revenue Authority was directed – by no lesser an authority than President Samia herself – to change its ways and offer truly quality service and generally do the nation proud.

This was an underlying current of public discomfort, brought out at last, and it thus has the capacity to create a new dynamic in public expectations, fortifying trust in institutions.

In a word, then, this was an especially rewarding Easter season for Tanzanians – with remarks and interventions by President Samia lifting their spirits enough to make them see every need to join her, and join hands, in making Tanzania the truly great and proud nation it ought to be.

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