Swedish ambassador Lennarth Hjelmaker has called for enactment of tougher legislation to protect media freedom and the right to freedom of expression in a drive to respect other human rights.
He made the call recently at a ceremony to launch the Tanzania Human Rights Report, 2011 prepared jointly by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) and Zanzibar Legal Services Centre (ZLSC).
Hjelmaker said public debates were an important step towards understanding and addressing human rights issues, saying the media was playing a key role in supporting the public to achieve that.
“The right to information is a much too often neglected human right. Still, it is crucial for improving governance and combat corruption all over the world,” said the ambassador.
Hjelmaker mentioned other areas which still faced major challenges with regards to human rights violations, as land rights, saying to most women and men who live in poverty, land was a fundamental means of production and livelihood.
He underlined research to make evidence-based advocacy on land rights.
Presenting a summary of the Tanzania Human Rights Report 2011, a researcher and a co- author of the report, Onesmo Olengurumwa, said a lot of violations with regards to freedom of the press had been mentioned in the document, including lack of contracts for some journalists.
He said the LHRC report calls upon government organs to respect the role of journalists by cooperating, instead of mistreating them. “Media owners on the other hand should learn to appreciate the role of journalists by paying them fair remunerations for them to shun away from corruption and maintain professionalism,” reads the report in part.
The report stated further that the Constitution guaranteed the right to freedom of expression, but it doesn’t explicitly provide for freedom of the press.
“There are several restrictive laws that limit the freedom of expression and the ability of the media to function effectively. The Newspaper Act of 1976 is only applicable in Tanzania mainland,” reads the report.