The just-ended consultative meeting between editors and the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) – held in Morogoro – underscored the need for media practitioners across the country to take the demands of their work with the seriousness that calls for.
Speaker upon speaker stressed the importance of journalists placing a premium on basic considerations such as care for truth, accuracy, fairness, balance and respect for the law as well as observance of media and social ethics.
Media practitioners were accordingly urged to religiously abide by the Dar es Salaam Declaration on Editorial Freedom, Independence and Responsibility (DEFIR) as adopted by MCT on February 18, 2011 and soon after opened for endorsement and the Leadership and Guiding Principles for African Media Owners and Managers as endorsed by the African Media Leaders Forum in the Tunisian capital Tunis on November 12, 2011.
Signatories to DEFIR appealed to editors and media practitioners generally “to perform their duties and discharge their social responsibility with utmost personal integrity, objectivity and competence consonant with professional standards and ethics”.
The signatories had earlier declared that they were “convinced that the free flow of information, discourse and expression of opinion plays a catalytic role in raising social awareness and consciousness for people to exercise their rights and freedoms meaningfully and to assert their political and economic sovereignty”.
Thus, the signing and endorsement of DEFIR was in appreciation of the central social and political role of a free media in the exercise of the collective right of the people to political and economic self-determination and individual basic rights – and what would be a better or smoother way of consolidating democratic practice?
Just for the record: DEFIR applies to responsibilities, obligations relating to media practitioners themselves; state functionaries; media owners, shareholders and directors; advertisers; media owners’ business and political allies; politicians; donors, and the diplomatic community.
In much similar vein, the Tunis Declaration cites the benefits of ensuring that the media adhere to ethics, with a view to enhancing transparency, accountability, performance, credibility, public trust and confidence, partly through the betterment of workplace relations.
While that is as it should be, we would have expected state institutions and functionaries such as government ministries to play a key role in ensuring that efforts to make our media more vibrant but still socially responsive and responsible succeed.
It is therefore hard to understand that, of all institutions, it is the Information, Youth, Culture and Sports that appears one of the least concerned and most insensitive.
This is if the baffling failure by both the respective minister and the permanent secretary to honour the Morogoro meeting with their presence and participation as earlier confirmed is anything to go by.
The million-dollar question is: With their parent ministry the one dragging its feet most at their hour of greatest need, considering their appeals for more people-friendly media laws and regulations, what hope do media practitioners have of having a better deal in the future?
We strongly recommend that whatever factors made both the minister and the PS absent themselves from the Morogoro meeting be dealt as soon as practicable so that they don’t rear their ugly heads again and make an ugly situation even uglier.