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Media Council of Tanzania Website
The rise of brutal and violent acts against media practitioners and members of public perpetrated by the state has been vehemently criticized.
Speaking during a high profile meeting organized by the Media Council of Tanzania on May 14, 2013, the chairperson of the Council’s Think Tank, Prof Issa Shivji said, the situation is getting worse by the day as the culprits are not held accountable.
“The continuing state violence with impunity if not checked will plunge our society to disaster”, he said.
Prof. Shivji who chaired the first session of the meeting which drew delegates from various institutions, and various parts of the country, cautioned that the situation in Tanzania could be terrible as it was in Latin America decades ago where several people were killed and perished due increased state violence with impunity.
The second session of the meeting whose theme was Escalating State Violence with Impunity: Press Freedom Under Siege was chaired by a member of Think Tank and media guru from Kenya, Wangethi Mwangi.
Quoting a recent report by the Legal and Human Rights Centre, Prof Shivji said about 25 people were killed annually in the country due to state violence and brutality and the perpetrators are not punished.
This figure loosely translated, means two people are killed each month and this is only for reported cases, Prof. Shivji said.
He said the killing of journalist, Daudi Mwangosi, in Iringa region on September 2, 2012 by police is a testimony of the unchecked brutality by the state.
Whereas a group of policemen were caught on camera descending on Mwangosi, only one policeman has been charged for the killing.
No action has been taken against the Iringa Regional Police Commander who was commanding the operation at which the Mwangosi killed.
Enumerating incidences of brutality which went unpunished, he said 43 per cent of extra judicial killings are committed by the police, 23 by local vigilantes (sungusungu) and people’s militia (mgambo) and !9 per cent by private security guards especially in mines.
Making the key presentation during the meeting, veteran journalist, columnist and publisher, Jenerali Ulimwengu traced and cited incidences of state violence in all four phases of leadership in the country starting with the post independence era of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere 1961 – 1985, Ali Hassan Mwinyi from 1985- 1995 , Benjamin Mkapa 1995 to 2005 and the current phase of President Jakaya Kikwete.
In the first phase they included the Mwanza and Shinyanga killings in the 70s, repatriation of undesirable elements from their place of domicile, and forced movement of people to villages.
In the second phase there were violent skirmishes between Muslims and police following attacks on pork butcheries which Muslims claimed were defiling their faith.
There were also killings and brutal beatings of some workers of Kilombero sugar company who were protesting against poor working conditions and seeking pay rise. Though in this case some perpetrators were tried, the Regional Commissioner who ordered the police Field Force Unit (FFU) to deal with the workers was only transferred to another station.
In the third phase of Mkapa, things were worse. Several people were killed in Pemba and thousands fled to Kenya and Somalia as refugees following violence instigated by refusal of the opposition party CUF to accept poll results in 2000 elections.
No one, according to Ulimwengu was held accountable and the perpetrators grievous crimes were commended for a job well done.
There was also violence against Muslims at Mwembechai Mosque in Dar es Salaam when police used tear-gassed their way and burst into the Mwembechai Mosque with their boots on and also fired live bullets against protesting Muslims who had locked themselves in the Mosques refusing orders to come out.
The situation is precarious in the fourth phase of President Kikwete where even journalists like Mwangosi are killed.
To arrest the situation, Ulimwengu proposed the police force should be reformed to have soldiers and commanders with proper technical skills and professionalism.
The police should be guided by professionalism and desist following orders from politicians from any political party.
He said the police should be aware of true enemies of the society and not rallies and demonstrations.
He listed the enemies as terrorists, network of cyber criminals, international economic sabotage, and dubious contracts depleting the country’s resources.
Two other papers were presented during the second of the meeting. They are the Safety of Journalists in Tanzania presented by veteran journalist and trainer, Ndimara Tegambagwe and the Principles of Sub Judice, the Right to Information and Freedom of Expression and Debate in Parliament presented by Prof. Banaventura Rutina, the Dean of University of Dar es Salaam School of Law.
Prof. Retina’s presentation was made due to latest pretexts used the state to restrict information on incidences of state violence on the basis that the issues could not be discussed or written about as they were in court.
In his conclusion Prof. Rutina pointed out that blanket restrictions are not warranted as public interest for the release of such information should carry the day.
Earlier the Executive Secretary of the Media Council of Tanzania, Kajubi Mukajanga, explained that the Council planned to organize the meeting during a planning retreat in October last year, following the killing of Mwangosi.
He said the Council was also disturbed by the increased impunity and attempts by the authorities to suppress information whenever the state commits heinous crimes against the public using the usual pretext that the matter is in court.
Speakers at the meeting were vocal with some blaming the deteriorating state of things to the status quo.
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