When truth and conviction and having the stalwart character to stand up for it become sparse and almost non-existent in a country, I think there is due reason to be afraid. It is no longer even a case of fighting for the truth; that battle has been lost for now, but rather just practicing the truth, this is what is imperative to our evolution and sustainability.
It is a widely accepted fact that the media is ‘somewhat’ suppressed in Tanzania. It is rare that the government will allow public critical opinion to reign unregulated; and we all know the methods of ‘regulation’ that are the favorite of our myopic leaders. Blackmail, corruption, imprisonment and blacklisting to name a few. It has not been a common sight for me to see a well established daily publication, openly criticizing the government, or elucidating the public on some controversial matter, even when the said story is fully sourced and verifiable. Those stories just don’t go into print, they are not allowed to be told, according to public spokespeople, they are detrimental to the moral fabric of the country; they are insulting, unverifiable, unpatriotic, unnecessary and therefore untold.
The great political scandals that we have had just over the past year are enough to make minds swirl. The saviors of our power crisis, the ever so ‘commendable’ “Richmond Development Company” made sure they stifled all forms of public outrage against there heavily overpriced airplane engines that were supposedly going to power our nation. They stamped the large authoritative foot of wealth and power to make sure that no one would reveal that rather then being angelic saviors, they were ruthless crooks. There golden boot ensured that the numerous government officials and businesspeople that were ‘intimately’ involved with the company would be unnamed and untouched. One should also not forget the lack of journalistic thrust on issues concerning the BAE Radar deal and the city ‘clean-up’ project. Needless to mention; the recent allegations made against the Bank of Tanzania governor, the immense amount of dirty paws and corrupt businessmen that have infiltrated the public vaults for personal gain, or the slaughter of an innocent dala dala driver by the President’s best man.
The way the government has demonized Haki Elimu and the potent message they stand for is not only disgusting but cruel. The Minister of Education is easily able to vilify Haki Elimu for insulting government policy and supposedly misrepresenting facts, yet none of these same government officials feel the need to regulate certain mainstream tabloids that run rampant amongst the population.
There are a large number of monthly, weekly and daily publications that have a total distribution and readership in the millions that blatantly misrepresent facts, and inseminate hateful and destructive themes into the minds of millions. Papers like Risasi openly incriminate individuals without any basis; publicize guilt of many an innocent victim, while wholeheartedly and destructively playing with racial and ethnic devices to incite public hate of large groups of people for no reason at all. Yet the government still finds the need to censor an article on emergency services, or ban private watchdog groups, citing security and protection of rights as reasons while other print publications (some owned by government officials) openly vandalize the truth and use discriminatory language and images to drown the public in pools of ignorant, vile, putrid garbage, supposedly reported by sound-minded journalists whose only wish is to ‘tell the truth’.
Let alone the wrongful allegations and racist denotations of these ‘popular papers’, what is even more criminal are the ‘candid’ photos of scantily clad women and girls, taken with questionable consent that are plastered throughout the murky pages of these papers. Some pictures have been clearly taken after torturous coercion, yet these papers are still allowed to be printed unchecked while verifiable criticism is squashed. How many of the women on the pages of these trashy-zines were sexually violated? How many of the stories ‘exposed’ have caused irreparable damage to the victims’ lives? How many millions of children did Haki Elimu educate on their rights, yet who is suppressed?
Why we as a country even read the trash that these papers print is difficult for me to understand. Why we allow these undeniable falsities to penetrate our collective consciousness and become truth is beyond my comprehension. Why the government feels the need to silence their law-abiding critics yet let these blatant criminals miseducate our people is something I fail to even begin to grasp. Maybe they are following the ancient axiom that an ignorant populace is easy to control, and with one you just have to be able to mimic the sounds and mannerisms of someone who makes sense.
It is up to us to tell our leaders to change their double standard. To tell the government that we want freedom not ignorance, to tell them we want to be educated not have our intelligence insulted. I think many of our government officials are intelligent enough to understand this. It is my hope that with the collective will we can make the government happy to hear our voices and that with a boycott of the criminal papers that violate our human rights and spoil our plight for freedom we shall overcome.