Monday, 10 February 2014

Media role in the Constitution Process in Tanzania

The fourth estate, as the media has come to be known is very important in any civilized democracy. The media acts as an integral nexus between governance and the people and between policy and the people. The people need the media and the media needs the people. It is a unique symbiotic relationship which has existed for many years. Mature democracies world over are driven by vibrant media. The media not only informs but has been used as an advocate for change and has been used as a tool for creating awareness among people. The media has been used to question and criticize the government and shape public opinion on fundamental aspects that are pertinent to society. 

Tanzania newspapers reporting
the country at a crucial constitution making stage, the media should rise above partisan interest and report objectively on the goings on in the Constituent Assembly which start this month. Tanzania newspapers in the recent past have failed to draw the line between mainstream journalism and tabloid business (udaku). Many of them have failed to position themselves as national newspapers despite them claiming this status. Some newspapers are openly known to be party based and thus biased with regard to the party interests. What struck me is when the list of the Constituent Assembly members was released by the President. A number of newspapers were quick to praise the appointments while others trashed saying the president got the appointments wrong.

The media should rise above the whims and caprices and be a neutral arbiter in the constitution process. more than ever, a balanced and objective media will help to drive the agenda based on consultative engagements of the country's citizenry. The media should create a platform for constructive engagements through objective reporting. Inflammatory and alarming statements should be avoided and if they really need to be published let them be euphemistically framed.      

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