The Secretary General of the East African Community Dr Richard Sezibera has urged the media fraternity in Tanzania to build peace and social consensus as the country prepares for the forthcoming general elections slated for October 2015.
The Secretary General, who was on Wednesday 16 September participating in a two-day Tanzania Media Peace Forum 2015 convened by the Media Owners Association of Tanzania (MOAT), Trinity Group East Africa, and the EAC Secretariat at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam, said during the electioneering period, the media in Tanzania is expected to build peace, social consensus and cohesion, without which democracy is threatened.
Amb Sezibera, who was represented by his Head of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs Department, Mr Richard Owora Othieno, said: “it will be unfortunate if the media in Tanzania take the path of fanning flames of discord by taking sides, reinforcing prejudices, muddling the facts and peddling half-truths during the electioneering period”.
He urged the media to shape public opinion responsibly and not to be influenced and manipulated by different interest groups in the society. “You are expected to promote democracy by among other things, educating voters, protecting human rights, promoting tolerance among various social groups, and ensuring that the government is transparent and accountable. Please don’t sow fear, division and violence which will lead to democratic decay”, asserted the EAC official.
In his keynote address, Dr. Reginald A. Mengi, the Executive Chairman of IPP Limited and Chair of Media Owners Association of Tanzania (MOAT), commended the EAC Secretariat and the Trinity Group East Africa for bringing together the representatives of various stakeholders to appreciate their different critical roles in deepening democracy in Tanzania.
Dr. Mengi reiterated that for a long time Tanzania had been a haven of peace, a situation, which has given the country international applause and that, the peace is a huge national asset and guarantees the country’s unity and national security.
“If we create and breed social instability, our existing peaceful co-existence will vanish at a great loss to all Tanzanians and the nation, and it will be very hard to re-organize and restore it,” he noted.
Dr Mengi also cautioned the media on reporting what candidates and their campaigners say while looking for votes. “Newsrooms, online portals, radio and television producers, should report stories and developments that aim to promote peace and national unity,” he advised.
A representative of the Head of the European Union Delegation in Tanzania, Mr. Fabio Di Stefano said the role of the media during elections cannot be underestimated and that development partners were ready to support the Tanzanian people during the general elections.
Rev. Canon Thomas Godda, the Executive Director of the Inter-Religious Council for Peace Tanzania and Mr. Tom Ndahiro, former Head of Department of Civil and Political Rights in the Rwanda National Human Rights Commission shared their views on the role of the media in democracy and peace building.