Press and gov’t in TZ clash over “stringent” media bills

THE BILLS WILL KILL PRESS FREEDOM AS WE KNOW IT: Shadow Minister in the Ministry of Information, Joseph Mbilinyi

THE BILLS WILL KILL PRESS FREEDOM AS WE KNOW IT: Shadow Minister in the Ministry of Information, Joseph Mbilinyi

The Tanzanian government and journalists in the country are at loggerheads over two contentious proposed media bills that have been vehemently opposed by the media fraternity.

The government has already tabled the two controversial bills; Media Service bill and Access to Information bill to the legislature but media practitioners in the country are warning the two bills will restrict and ruin coverage of the October general election.

The opposition members in parliament are also voicing their concerns about the proposed bills saying the government’s move would be “a complete U-turn” to the tangible progress in the industry.

Appearing before lawmakers, the Minister of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports Fenella Mukangara said both bills are meant to set a basis for recognizing rights, duties and responsibilities of journalists as professionals. “The bills which were tabled in last parliamentary seating, are very positive to the future of journalism and journalists in the country,” Mukangara told the house in Dodoma Thursday.

However, the Shadow Minister Joseph Mbilinyi in the information ministry countered saying the Media Services bill as well as the Access to Information bill would strongly “butcher” media freedom in Tanzania. “The two bills would take the nation to the dark ages and maybe the colonial era,” he stated.

Speaking at a Consultative meeting, the Chairman of Media Owners Association of Tanzania (MOAT) Dr Reginald Mengi charged the two bills if passed into laws will curtail choice in terms of the public accessing news sources of their own choice.