Media Accountability in Tanzania's Multiparty Democracy
Does Self-Regulation Work?
Acta Universitatis Tamperensis No. 1771


By Ayub Rioba
December 2012
Tampere University Press
Distributed By Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789514489358
279 pages
$92.50 Paper Original

In this research I set out to interrogate the effectiveness of an independent and voluntary media council, in spearheading self-regulation of media in a young democracy. My focus was on the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), which was introduced in 1995 after the country had embarked on liberal democratic reforms. While many countries in Africa are turning to Tanzania to learn from the experience of the MCT in spearheading self-regulation of media, there appears to be a conspicuous lack of comprehensive knowledge about the effectiveness of the mechanism in ensuring media accountability. For example, in which ways do historical realities in Africa support notions such as liberal democracy and self-regulation that were re-introduced to Africa in the early 1990s? Or is there any evidence which suggests that self-regulation, spearheaded by a voluntary media council like MCT, can be effective in promoting media freedom and accountability in a young democracy like Tanzania? What do journalists and other media stakeholders think about the effectiveness of an independent, voluntary and non-statutory council like the MCT in spearheading self-regulation?

Five key conclusions emerge from the findings of this research.

Firstly, most respondents view liberal democracy which has characterized Tanzania’s reform process since mid 1980s and 1990s as inimical to transformative and liberatory needs of Tanzanians in general because it has largely responded to the dictates of international financial institutions as well as donors.

Secondly, most respondents do not differentiate the functions of media in general from the role of media in democracy although they demonstrate a clear understanding of the difficulties of their role in the new democratic dispensation.

Thirdly, most respondents in all the three approaches of this study view media laws, ownership interference, politicians’ as well as corporate sector’s influence on their work as major obstacles to their role in promoting and sustaining democracy. In general respondents further express concern about irresponsible journalism caused by lack of professionalism, poor pay, corruption and conflict of interests which, according to some of them, can be addressed by either government intervention or through a statutory media council.

Fourthly, although respondents generally view MCT as a necessary mechanism to foster self-regulation – as opposed to government control – they still view it as ineffective and in need of ‘teeth’ to make its decisions binding.

Fifthly, although the MCT seems to have played a significant role in spearheading self-regulation of media as cases brought before it for arbitration demonstrate, its effectiveness seems to be limited.

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