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Push for reform gathers momentum as coalition submits media services bill

(MISA/IFEX) - On 8 October 2008, Tanzania's Freedom of Information Bill Coalition Campaign submitted a draft Media Services Bill to the Minister of Information and Culture, Hon. George Mkuchika, at his offices in the capital Dar es Salaam. The draft is part of civil society efforts to advocate for media policy changes in Tanzania.

The minister commended the stakeholders' efforts, which he described as geared towards enhancing press freedom, professionalism and accountability. He urged both publicly-controlled and privately-owned media to take responsibility to train journalists in order to enhance professionalism and accountability in the sector.

The Freedom of Information Campaign Coalition in Tanzania was formed in Dar es Salaam in 2006 following a stakeholders' resolution to push for a democratic media policy in Tanzania. The coalition was formed by three media organisations: MISA-Tanzania, the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) and the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA). The coalition is a continuation of the 2001 Media Law Reform project started by the above-mentioned organisations together with the United Nations Association of Tanzania (UNA-TZ), the Tanzania Union of Journalists (TUJ) and the Association of Journalists and Media Workers (AJM). The broad aim of the campaign is to advocate media policies that match global trends in promoting media diversity and investment, among other issues. A key success of the Media Law Reform Project was the development of the Information and Broadcasting Policy and the Information, Communication and Technology Policy of 2003. This led to the enactment of Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCARA Act, 2003).

The latest stakeholders' proposals on the Media Services Bill of 2008 are part of efforts to determine the course of media policy in Tanzania. The proposals are a result of continuing activism amongst media and information stakeholders who have been calling for changes to existing media laws. These laws have been identified as promoting secrecy in the day-to-day running of government business. MISA-Tanzania and its partners are looking forward to the tabling of the proposed Freedom of Information Bill in the coming parliamentary session this October.

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