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Tabloid under fire of political misile in Tanzania

Hali Halisi Publishers Limited

The new war against
freedom of information

27th September 2007

MwanaHALISI, a weekly tabloid published by Hali Halisi Publishers Limited (HHP) of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, has information about a conspiracy, by individuals and groups, to suffocate and kill the citizens’ freedom to seek and receive information.

There is an underground movement by individuals and groups, currently sowing fear among media outlets, especially MwanaHALISI, its publishers, printers, editors, reporters, correspondents and individual private contributors.

Such machinations against MwanaHALISI, are not new. For nearly a year now, there have been threats through a number of ways, including attack letters from either the government or individual citizens, threatening to arraign us in court for our style of reporting and analysis. We have managed to arrest their desires by our continued reporting of truth and by categorically stating that we unwaveringly stand by our style and reports.

But since last week, especially after a loose-cooperation of opposition political parties released a list of eleven alleged corrupt individuals in public office, conspiracies to wipe out the people’s outlet have been more distinct.

The alleged corrupt persons in public office include the current president Jakaya Kikwete and former president Benjamin Mkapa. Others are Premier Edward Lowassa, Governor of the Central Bank Daudi Balali, ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party’s national treasurer Rostam Aziz, government ministers Andrew Chenge, Basil Mramba and Nazir Karamagi. Also alleged are principal secretaries Gray Mgonja and Patrick Rutabanzibwa and lawyer-m businessman cum member of parliament, Nimrod Mkono.

Simply because our newspaper did its professional duty; that of making public all names of alleged corrupt leaders and their position in the malfeasance, just as they were read out at a public rally at a Dar es Salaam suburb, now everyone who wants to discount the allegations does it in widely publicized manner and concludes by promising to go to court to sue, among others, MwanaHALISI, and our printers, Printech.

A series of vows, real or empty threats, to sue the outlet and its printers – for alleged defamation – is a new, calculated move to sow fear among publishers, printers and journalists. The move is intended to mar interest and initiative in continued exposure as more information on the alleged malfeasance unfolds and spill faster.

It is very unfortunate that the detractors fail to appreciate the fact that it is this very vehicle – MwanaHALISI – which is poised to report correctly, fairly and truthfully on findings about the allegations. To have this outlet smashed is, indeed a calamitous grieve to them and society as a whole.

It’s a relief that advocate Nimrod Mkono has said he would not sue MwanaHALISI because the outlet has no money to pay him. Here, he has put himself on the side of the winner of the case well before he goes to court. But the truth is that we indeed do not have money to give to the opulent. The only money we have is already planned for promotion of people’s freedoms and right to information.

The fastest way to kill an information medium, and here I am referring to MwanaHALISI, is to build blocks along its way to a printing press.

Already the management at Printech has been threatened in two ways: First, by being told blatantly that the press will be “ordered” to close because of their insistence on printing MwanaHALISI. Secondly, it is through threats to sue them in court for defamation. MwanaHALISI is also under the same threats.

There are two important points to observe as regards to this issue: First, Printech is not a government printing press nor does it belong to those facing allegation of corruption. This is an independent private company. It uses printing machines donated for one major purpose: To promote media development in Tanzania and Africa.

Second, it is not secret that such printing presses have been donated to, and are in operation in, Zambia, Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Plans are underway to have the same machines installed in Mozambique for the same purpose.

This important project for the development of media aims to give capacity to up-coming publishers with the clear view of promoting democratic values and freedom of the press. The project is under SAMDEF – Southern Africa Media Development Fund with its headquarters in Botswana.

To this effect, this is not a project whose management can very easily be twisted and threatened by anybody who wants to do so. We print with Printech because we value the assistance of those who value freedom and quality of information and media as a whole.

Donors to Printech, who include George Soros, founder of Open Society Institute (OSI), with branches all over the world, will be struck with astonishment to see this country wants to ditch this grand assistance through Printech; the assistance whose main objective is to bring about development for the entire citizenry.

At MwanaHALISI we try hard to report and strictly record what society and its people say, how they say what they say, how they are addressed and how the communicators were heard and even interpreted by audiences. And in this, we don’t find any unpleasantness, fault or criminality. Indeed, herein we find pride and pleasure.

It is our ardent hope that management at Printech will not shift its stand and that it will perform its duty without fear or favour.

We have a contract with Printech. We are guided by the principle that views expressed in the outlet are not necessarily those of the printer. If that principle is adhered to, and at the same time MwanaHALISI adheres to professionalism, truth and faithfulness, none will derail us from our objectives.

I have been heartened by a statement by the General Manager of Printech which was communicated to MwanaHALISI on 26/09/2007 pertaining to threats resulting from the continued printing of our newspaper. He has said he will never back down on threats in the execution of his responsibility.

However, this remains a big war between the two parties: Those who want to suppress information about them, more especially when they are and remain in public offices, on one hand; and those sworn recorders of all that is said so that wananchi get to read, understand, analyze and decide on information given, on the other. In this, when supported by communities, we shall definitely win the war. Our message to everyone is that, we don’t want your communication vehicle smashed to debris.

Saed Kubenea
Managing Director

Distribution list:
- General Manager, Printech
- Executive Officer, SAMDEF – Botswana
- Director, MAELEZO
- Media Council of Tanzania
- MISA-Tanzania
- Media institutions
- Diplomatic Missions
- NGOs, CSOs, CBOs


Ansbert Ngurumo said...

Nimekuona. Lakini hujajibu kuhusu mradi wetu ule.

WWG said...

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WWG :)

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