The Community Media Foundation (CMF), a not-for-profit media organization, has applauded latest efforts by the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) in addressing lack of regular flow of news and programmes from rural areas, saying it was a tangible action for developmental journalist in the country.
Speaking at a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday, CMF project coordinator Jozaka Bukuku also called on the MCT to address the lack of community participatory skills among media houses and journalists, a vital strategy for increasing media coverage from not only rural areas, but marginalized and vulnerable people in the community, including urban areas.
He urged MCT to extend its objectives to include how journalists, and producers in particular, will facilitate public participation in debates through community media existing in their districts and localities of which they are familiar and whose trust they have gained.
He said lack of meaningful participation by key players, inadequate networking and coordination within media organizations in setting the agenda, gathering and disseminating news and programmes emanating from communities were a stumbling block for increased media coverage of rural areas and communities.
He said through coordination and networking of up-country journalists and press clubs and community media institutions with national media houses, it was possible to transform the current urban-rural information divide that is evident in news, features, pictures and programmes in the mainstream media.
For his part, a veteran community media advocate, Sylvester Hanga, said there was no way the general public could see increased coverage on rural development or the marginalized and vulnerable urban population without proper coordination of people and channels between mainstream and community media.
Commenting on the place of community media in participatory communication, he said the media fraternity should be ready to learn and adopt popular citizen participatory methods if media organizations were to increase coverage of rural settings, adding that journalists and producers have to shift their newsroom mindset.
He appealed to the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), national and regional press clubs to work closely with private, faith and community media, including radio stations, in the country to facilitate more people to set the agenda and give their voices through participation in debates and processes for the writing of the new constitution.
“There is no way the majority of Tanzanians can be heard in debates without working with community media, especially the press, radio, cable and television stations located within their proximity.
"Communities rely on these media for information and education and it is unthinkable to avoid them and still aim at increasing public participation in the writing of the constitution or increased coverage in rural development,” he noted.
He commended the initiative by CMF in which young people in certain communities are trained in developing community media, including wall newspapers, video and radio programmes, and use internet services to disseminate and share information with mainstream media usually based in towns.
According to the CMF project coordinator, his organization has to date trained 23 young people, including three albinos, in media production for underserved urban and rural populations who are crucial to vibrant community-focused news and programmes.