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Media & freedom of expression

Tanzania: The role of the media in promoting inclusive information society

2004-06-03, Issue 159

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/media/22451

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On March 01, this year the Tanzania Development Gateway (TzDG) of the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF) organized a one-day workshop on the Internet Development and the Role of Media in Promoting Open and Inclusive Information Society. Aloyce Menda, the Coordinator of Journalists' Union for Science & Technology Advancement in Africa, presented the paper available through the link below on how the media in Tanzania can promote local content development to enhance inclusive information society in Tanzania.

Media role in promoting inclusive information society

On March 01, this year the Tanzania Development Gateway (TzDG) of the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF) organized a one day workshop on the Internet Development and the Role of Media in Promoting Open and Inclusive Information Society. ALOYCE MENDA presented the paper below on how the media in Tanzania can promote local content development to enhance inclusive information society in Tanzania.


Two categories of media namely print and electronic exist in Tanzania. Both have played a key role in propelling development through gathering and disseminating information and knowledge. Today the role of the Tanzania edia like the rest of the world remains the same: to inform, to educate, to entertain and to mobilize.


Media professionals in Tanzania rely heavily on information and communication technologies (ICTs) as working tools and information channel. On the other hand, ICTs propels development of media through the processes to create, gather, manage, store, transmit and display information and knowledge.


The public have often associated ICTs with computers, the World Wide Web and the Internet. However, though the term became famous because of these, ICTs is any artifact, instruments, technique or knowledge used to create, store, manage and disseminate information. It includes such things as radio, television, video cameras and telephones. Actually, ICT existed before computers and the Internet were invented, but the only difference is that in this era, rapid advances in technology have changed the traditional ways in which information was processed, communication conducted and the available services.


In 1998, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) adopted a definition, which classified ICT sector as industrial sector. This definition was criticized for been too restrictive in development context because it is limited to those industries that facilitate by electronic means, the processing, transmission and display of Information. The definition excludes the industries, which create the information, the so-called ‘content’ industries.


During the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) last December (10-12) in Geneva, content industries voiced their concerns over their exclusion, which was castigated as a hurdle against development of broader global information society. Media were among the voices that demanded a broader information society that includes the press as part of the content industries.

The media demands were based on the fact that without appropriate and extensive involvement of ‘local content’ industries ICTs can not effectively be applied to promote sustainable development and reduce poverty.


Currently, about 70 per cent of all Internet content is in English and that only 12 languages out of the world’s 6,000 or so accounts for about 98 per cent of the total web content. Kiswahili language, which constitutes over 80 per cent of the local media contents in Tanzania, is not among the 12 languages. In other words, Kiswahili is among more than 5,900 world languages, which constitutes only two (02) per cent of the Internet content. Above that, over 95 percent of the Tanzania population can only speak, read and write in either Kiswahili or tribal languages and hence can not comprehend most of the contents in the Internet even if they get access to it.


The Tanzania media professionals have a vital role to play in gathering useful information from the Internet, digest it, translate to Kiswahili and disseminate the same to their target audiences. Most Kiswahili media have been doing so in Tanzania. A notable number of news and feature articles from foreign sources are translated to Kiswahili and published by Kiswahili newspapers.


Furthermore, the media in Tanzania have a role to play in promoting inclusive and open information society, which can utilize the useful Internet information for promoting effective programmes in poverty alleviation process.


The Tanzania journalists are supposed to harness from the Internet all information that can empower the poor and vulnerable communities to develop new educational systems and other opportunities. Moreover, the Tanzania media should influence government leadership at all levels to use the potentials of ICTs to improve the quality and delivery of public services.


Finally, the Tanzania media should report on any detected harm or side effect of the Internet information such as pornographic contents and search for solutions. To a large extent the Tanzanian media have yet to address these issues seriously and hence deserve a catalyst to accelerate their morality and a compass to direct their attitudes toward the ICT4D direction.


ACCESS TO INFORMATION


Like the rest of developing world, much of the Tanzania population does not have access to any modern ICT. The Internet connections for instance are only available in major urban centres such as Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Arusha, Tanga, Mbeya, Iringa, Morogoro, Dodoma and Zanzibar.


The traditional communication media, particularly the radio remains the most widely used in rural areas where majority of population lives. Community Radios therefore should be widened as basic building blocks of knowledge societies and relays of digital information in Tanzania like the rest of developing world.


Moreover, the media in Tanzania should ensure public accessibility of a wide range of content needed by citizens for their lives and work. The information includes data, publications, artistic works, radio and TV programmes, and informatics applications.


The community radio journalists should harness from the Internet sources relevant information, which can suit their target audiences. The information mostly in English language should be simplified and translated into Kiswahili to be understood by all radio listerners regardless of their levels of education.


LOCAL CONTENT DEVELOPMENT


The potential developers of local content are extremely diverse including media producers, publishers, educators and researchers, civil society organizations and individual citizens. The constraints on content production are many and vary from economic, political, administrative, social, cultural and technical.


The first challenges for the Tanzania media is how to overcome these constraints, which deter development of Kiswahili content in the Internet. The second challenge is for the journalists in Tanzania to select from the Internet sources useful information that exists in foreign languages and translates it to simple Kiswahili for their media audiences.



One wonders today why for instance, the National ICT Policy is not yet translated to Kiswahili. Why today there is no Kiswahili version for most of ICTs terms particularly those related to instruments and techniques. The Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action of the WSIS is one of important documents that need to be translated to Kiswahili for the general public in Tanzania to understand the relevance of broader global information society. Yet most of the local media is still ignorant of the document.



THE MEDIA IN TANZANIA



Tanzania had its second Media Policy released by the government in December 2003. It replaced the first one, which existed for ten years from 1993. According to this policy, by January 2003 there were 12 local daily newspapers registered and in circulation in Tanzania. Ten among these were privately owned, one was owned by the government (The Daily News) and the second one (Uhuru) is owned by the ruling party (CCM). In 1993 these two were the only daily papers in Tanzania.



Registered weeklies were only five in 1993, but its number rose to 30 by January 2003. In 1993, Tanzania had only one broadcast radio station (Radio Tanzania) in the Mainland, but the number rose to 30 by January 2003. Most of these radio stations were privately owned. The Mainland Tanzania had no TV station in 1993 but by January 2003 more than 30 were registered including the state owned TVT.



The new National Media Policy says the number of journalism training institutes increased from two in 1993 to eight in January 2003. Three among these institutes are part of fully accredited universities in Tanzania.



Radio remains the most widespread and popular tool of communication in Tanzania as it can overcome problems of distance, illiteracy and language diversity better than any of the other media. Just as for the print, the electronic media is increasingly opening up for de-regulazation and privatization in Tanzania and the general framework of the electronic media is being redefined.



As a result of the ending of monopoly on broadcast media, the emergency of private TV and radio stations in Tanzania is creating a new context for the electronic media, particularly the radio.



However, the broadcast media particularly TV are still kept under strict controls by the government through the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA). These controls somehow limits the freedom of media as far as coverage area and language use is concerned. Today the electronic media in Tanzania are not allowed to b oadcast in tribal languages and their coverage area is limited to only 25 per cent of country land area for each medium according to the Broadcast Act number 06 of 1993.



EXEMPLARY MEDIA HOUSES



Despite a large number of registered newspapers, TV and radio stations, Tanzania has five prominent media houses, four of which are based in Dar es Salaam, the de-facto capital of Tanzania:



1. The IPP Media Limited (http://www.ippmedia.co.tz).



This media house owns print and electronic media. Among them are the ITV, Radio One, the East African Radio and a number of newspapers under the subsidiary company, the Guardian Limited.



2. The Business Times Limited (BTL) (www.bcstimes.com <http://www.bcstimes.com>)



This media house owns a radio station (Radio Times FM) and a number of newspapers.



3. Habari Corporation Limited (HCL)



This media house does not have any type of electronic media but posses a number daily and weekly newspapers.



4. The Media Communications Limited (MCL)



This media house owns a radio station (Radio Uhuru) and two newspapers inpartnership with the Kenyan Nations Media Group.



5. Sahara Communications and Publishing Company Limited (www.radiofreeafrica.co.tz <http://www.radiofreeafrica.co.tz>)



This is Mwanza based media house with a TV station (Start TV Africa), a radio station (Radio Free Africa) and a weekly newspaper (Msanii Africa).





Three media houses among these five have websites, which displays their media publications. The other two namely Habari Corporation Limited and Media Communications Limited have yet to develop websites to display their publications.



The IPP Media and Business Times websites are the most outstanding and up-todate in terms of current news and features display. These two are good examples as far as coverage and provision of local content is concerned. They both have Kiswahili and English versions in their websites.



In the IPP Media website, the Kiswahili daily Nipashe is always displayed with prominent news and features. In the Business Times website, the Kiswahili daily Majira is displayed with news and features published daily. Majira and Nipashe and the leading Kiswahili dailies< o:p>



ALOYCE MENDA, is the Coordinator of Journalists' Union for Science & Technology Advancement in Africa (JUSTA - AFRICA) E-mail: justafrica2001@yahoo.com

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