Bento Venâncio, from Jornal Domingo and Brito Simango, from Televisão de Moçambique, posing with Victor Mlunde while holding their Portuguese Language General News Awards.
By Victor Mlunde
Last Saturday, the world witnessed a historic annual CNN-Multichoice Journalist Award ceremony on the continent, hosted for the first time in our commercial capital, Dar Es Salaam.
The choice of Tanzania is not only an unprecedented honor to the great peaceful nation on the continent, but a rare opportunity to showcase Tanzania and open its market to the world.
I congratulate the event organizers and His Excellency the President, Dr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, for being the Guest of Honour, for his outstanding economic diplomacy skills and unending efforts in showcasing Tanzania to the world.
As usual, the president’s speech looked at quantity rather than quality, boasting to have more media outlets in the country than neighbors - even with mounting insecurity of media practitioners and existence of Draconian Newspapers Act, 1976 and National Security Act, 1970 which limit press freedom as we approach 2015 general elections, the standard rhetoric maintained that the government will soon table the Freedom of Information and Media Services Bills in parliament, a promise left unattended by the Ministry of Information since begin of his second term in office back in 2006.
Despite government’s slow pace in implementing commitments on free press, we should acknowledge the fact that the head of state is at least committed to transparency and open government more than his predecessors, at least by signing international commitments and protocols on transparency such as the Open Government Partnership, though more work needs to be done in getting Media Freedom Bill and Services Act in place before busy and tense election period comes in.
Categories and winners
The award categories covered economics and business, press freedom, culture, sports, photo journalism, sports reporting and the environment. Others included Portuguese and French stories awards. Winners wrote moving and interesting stories. To mention a few; Bento Venâncio, Jornal Domingo, Mozambique investigated how lack of transparency in procurement of automobiles in Mozambique leads to fraud, Evelyn Watta, a sports reporter from Kenya revealed the value of Senegal’s mythical Wrestling heritage to the West African nation.
The most touching of all was Press Freedom Award handed to the wife of jailed Swazi journalist, Bheki Makhubu who is facing sedition for penning columns supporting a state clerk who was charged for trying to put right the system that allowed judicial officers to misuse public cars.
My sincere congratulations should go to the only brave Tanzanian nominee, one Dickson Ng’hily whose Dar traffic jam story was a concern of all Dar commuters; too bad the judges underestimated the significance of his story in pushing authorities in fast growing African cities to expand the road network.
However, a question remains; where were the rest of Tanzanian journalists? it is believed the majority did not submit their work for some reason – probably due to the fact that everyone was very busy reporting on “katiba” stunning headlines “serikali mbili au tatu” instead of simple local stories that could create positive impact in the community! If the awards had a politics category, I am sure we would have beaten the Kenyans and West Africans for our genius in making stunning political headlines.
Yes! We would have defeated our neighbours in Kenya who have outperformed the whole of East Africa in this year’s awards, yet again. In fact it is not the first time; even in the prestigious annual Kili Marathon held in Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro region, Kenyans end up winning more trophies while we the hosts are reduced to mere spectators each year.
President Jakaya Kikwete presents the overall ‘CNN MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year’ Award to Joseph Mathenge. Looking on is Mathenge’s son, Geoff Kihato.
I was personally moved by the story of the overall winner, Joseph Mathenge and his son who convinced father to abandon his private photography tender aimed at raising funds for son’s cancer treatment and instead rushed to the Westgate Mall to capture the very first photos that revealed the images of terror to the whole world.
It is high time Tanzanian journalists be proud of their work and confident to present it in future awards, even when unsure of winning. More quantity will help identify quality stories that will make all of us proud.
Organizers should also add a social media category to honour and recognize excellent work by social media which uses the internet and citizen journalism to report sensational stories as they happen swifter than the traditional media itself.
On the other hand, award organizers should add a Swahili story category alongside Portuguese and French story awards for it is an African Union (AU) language widely spoken across East and Central Africa. Moreover, I would like to advise CNN to introduce a CNN Swahili language service in East and Central Africa, emulating BBC, Deutsche Welle, Radio France International and VOA in giving local journalists in the broader Swahili speaking East and Central African region to cover and explain local stories to the world.
Victor Mlunde is a Dar es Salaam-based Political and Development Consultant with expertise in media, good governance, elections and conflicts resolution in the Great Lakes region. He can be easily reached through +255 714 289428 and firstname.lastname@example.org