by Haji Nassor
The year 2020 has set in Tanzania, where even those who are not politicians or members of any political party, if asked about an extraordinary national event that will occur at the end of this year, they will expressly give an answer.
On my part, if I may give you a helping hand, let me inform you that we are expecting to embark on multiparty national general elections for the sixth time, after that of 1995 which was the first.
Although, historically, Zanzibar people began to go to polls under the multiparty political system in 1957 and later in 1963, those elections were before the Zanzibar Revolution.
After the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution, Zanzibar embarked on the one-party system and reverted to the former setting in 1992, when in 1995 it conducted its first-second phase general elections.
That is true glorified democracy: to have elections that provide voters with an opportunity to groom the incumbent contestants with questions that would make the voters make a wise decision of whether to extend their leadership or to bar them and give the chance to a new one.
In accomplishing every national venture the media is given first priority, in belief that they are capable of contributing immensely in accomplishing a certain activity.
President of Zanzibar and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council, Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein, had once said that the media has a crucial role in accelerating development.
Hence, the work and duty of the media is to be a catalyst in accelerating development in all spheres of life; be it in economy, agriculture, industries or communication.
Probably, at present, some political parties have already locked themselves in their offices, and possibly under guards, searching for a capable contestant who could ably compete with many others from other parties.
You should not be surprised to find out that presently there are already some journalist who brace themselves for informing, educating, and directing the public, specifically the voters, about their parties and their prospective candidates.
Commenting on that issue, recently, the retired Secretary to the Zanzibar Mufti, Suleiman Fadhil Soraga, addressing Zanzibar journalists, said that the media is duty-bound in protecting the prevailing peace.
Soraga said that even after concluding the general elections, Tanzania would like to continue to exist and to lead a new life and that the media and the journalists should bear that in mind.
“The media are very effective and when they decide seriously everything becomes possible; however, were you to turn your pens and your cameras in the arrogant angle, the prevailing peace and tranquility will vanish into thin air”, he said emphatically.
Soraga perceives the issue of abiding by ethics, taboos and employment laws by journalists is the only way that will ferry Tanzania safely across the 2020 general elections.
In a three-day workshop that was conducted in Unguja, the Director of Cordoba Foundation based in Geneva, Dr. Abaas Aroua, reiterated that true peace remains in the hands of journalists.
He said that the use of proper and decent language is the bridge that can ferry Tanzania safely before and after the 2020 general elections.
He cautioned about expressions such as ‘that candidate is unfit, or is full of debts’, or that ‘parties have no followers, or that it is not easy for them to win’ and the like are not proper for the journalists.
“I would like to advise you to know that the media has an expansive role in ferrying the country safely in this year that is full of jubilations towards general elections that will ensue by the end of this year”, he remarked.
Dr. Lakhdar Ghettas, addressing journalists in Pemba, in the middle of last year, noted that one way of tempering conflicts through the media is to be choosy of words.
“Choosing words by journalists when heading towards general elections is the only thing that will ferry the nation safely, because elections will come and go but Tanzanians will be there forever”, he insisted.
He urged the journalists and their editors to be keen in using words when they write their news bulletins, because a single word can generate havoc in a country.
He gave as example countries like Rwanda and Kenya where during their elections, events were reported that led to breaching of peace by certain politicians, and that journalists had also contributed in that.
“The media, if you are not keen in using your pens and your cameras, and in your word choice, you can plunge the country in turmoil and breaching of peace, so we have to be very cautious in this,” he emphasized.
The journalists on their part promised to do their level best in ensuring that their keenness in selecting words is of the highest level when reporting.
Bakari Mussa Juma from the Zanzibar Government Newspapers Corporation, in his word of thanks after a training conducted in Zanzibar emphasized the necessity of being diligent and keen in news reporting.
He noted that the training they had been provided by their Corporation and the Mufti’s Office has come at an opportune time as the multiparty general elections are near.
“The 2020 general elections are approaching and this training has come at opportune time, because many of us have forgotten ourselves and do news reporting fanatically”, he explained.
Said Mohamed Ali, a journalist, says among major works of journalists is to ensure that they conduct thorough analysis of words they use to avoid infringing ethics of their work.
“It is true that it is a good practice for us as journalists to take heed of language use while heading for general elections that are going to take place at the end of this year”, he said.
Use of standard Swahili in the media towards general elections was earmarked to be the basic principle that could ferry Tanzania without havoc.
There are those who believe that indicators of breaching of peace and possibly even of destroying the whole election process is when the media, as an institution, is swayed.
Shifaa Said Hassan, while addressing journalists in the training sponsored by The Media Council in collaboration with Internews Organization, conceded that if journalists and their editors were not careful enough in selecting their words, they could bring about some unprecedent outcomes.
Shifaa specifically insisted that those who could not use their pens or their cameras diligently, believing that they are above the law, can generate calamities.
“We have journalists, editors, as well as cameramen and if each of them will take a binding responsibility in safeguarding our country and its safety, general elections will be conducted harmoniously and safely,”, she said.
When addressing media institutions in Pemba, Khatib Juma Mjaja the Officer in Charge of the Ministry of Information, Tourism and Antiquities in Pemba, said that the duty of the media institutions includes abiding by their ethics. “A journalist is needed to be keen in his work at all times, but in this year when the nation is heading for general elections, keenness is of paramount importance”, he added.
The Code of conduct for journalists during 2015 elections did not allow any journalist to use whatever words he liked in his media institution.
We hope the same will apply in the 2020 general elections. Hence, we need to be double cautious in relation to that fact, always knowing that there are ethics that never change.
This is in line with what was observed by Ali Salim Msellem, a journalist and announcer of Radio Istiqama in Pemba, who insisted that journalists had to use appropriate words in reporting.
He said Tanzania without problematic elections is quite possible if journalists are not bought by politicians.
He explicated that needs of the journalists, and perhaps being sponsored by politicians to go to places journalists can’t afford to go by themselves, should not be a pretext of infringing their ethics.
“This should not be the cause of infringing ethics or turning our media institutions into a stage of exchanging words between one candidate against another, as this inflames conflict”, he added.
Cordoba Foundation of Geneva, in collaboration with the Office of Mufti, has come at an opportune time in framing journalists to write their bulletins without conflicts.