Othman emphasizes media accountability

By Juma Khamis 

Zanzibar's First Vice President, Othman Massoud Othman, has called on the media to be accountable, saying irresponsible media resembles furniture in an administrative hall.

Addressing the journalists during the World Press Freedom Day celebrations here last week, Massoud said the prosperity of democracy depends on the press freedom and responsible journalists.

He said press freedom promotes good governance, transparency and accountability citing investigated reports by the Washington Post which sparked a resignation of President Nixon in 1974. 

The First Vice President said in the absence of press freedom, democracy would also collapse and eventually disappear, which would hamper development, justice and accountability. 

He said if properly utilised the power of media would help build a stronger and prosperous country, strengthen unity and a cohesive nation.

“The first fundamental issue in building a developed country is the existence of accountability to government, public and private institutions that are responsible for managing the country’s affairs. If those duty bearers do not comply with the constitution, laws and regulations, the leader must be corrupt as power can be used for personal gain,” the Vice President said.

He warned that in the absence of accountability the government collapses and what remains is an established order by an elite club protected by those who are the beneficiaries.

He said to have a strong and dedicated media, there is need for friendly environment and urged stakeholders to reflect on how much the law hinders press freedom and how to address the barriers.

Commenting on sedition offenses, the Vice President who is a lawyer by profession said the offense is only related when the perpetrator incites people to use force or commit violence, where by definition it should no longer be called a sedition offense.

Thus, he said it is the responsibility of all media stakeholders to promote cooperation in removing all barriers on journalists and press freedom.

However, he confessed that Tanzania recognizes the importance of press freedom and that is why both two constitutions explain in detail the concept of press freedom.

He advised journalists to learn, produce quality content, raise the voice of the voiceless and produce more content on climate change and rural communities.

The Vice-Chairperson of the organising committee, Dr. Mzuri Issa Ali, commended the government’s commitment to promote press freedom but called for more efforts to ensure such freedom is realized.

She said the committee is planning to award the best journalists in the Excellence Journalism Award Zanzibar (EJAZ) gala to be held later this year.

The Executive Secretary of the Zanzibar Broadcasting Commission, Suleiman Abdalla Salim, urged the media to adhere to the industry's norms and values to avoid sanctions.

The Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) Executive Secretary Kajubi Mukajanga, said the government and media stakeholders should closely work together to repeal laws that impinge on media freedom.

The World Press Freedom Day was jointly organised by MCT, TAMWA-Zanzibar, WAHAMAZA, Zanzibar Press Club, Pemba Press Club and SUZA’s Department of Mass Communication and Media Studies with support from DANIDA and Internews.

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