UNDP Supports Training for Parliamentary Reporters in Zanzibar
On 24 May, 2014, the Legislatures Support Project facilitated a one day training session for journalists covering the Zanzibar House of Representatives (the House). The training was conducted at the Coconut Beach Hotel, in Marumbi, Zanzibar where 41 participants from the print, electronic media and the ZHoR participated. Of the 41 participants, 24 being men and 17 women, also present were senior managers and public relations officials from the House. In addition to familiarising parliamentary reporters with the rules, ethics and procedures governing their work with the legislature, the workshop also engendered cooperation between the media and the House.
The guest of honour was the Speaker of the House, Honourable Ameir Pandu Kificho who drew participants’ attention to the important role that the media play in bringing the legislature closer to the people. He informed the participants that by opening up the public policy process making to the public, the media not only contribute to public participation, but also play a significant role in enhancing democratic governance. The event demonstrated the fact that both the legislature and the media share a joint responsibility in sustaining a thriving democracy, the subsistence of which depends in part, on information and communication. It was noted that democracy only flourishes where societies are well-informed, enjoy freedom of expression and where ‘the right to know’ prevails. To maintain a stable democratic environment the journalists were urged to adhere to the ethics of professional journalism such as accuracy, professionalism, fairness, truthfulness, objectivity as well as integrity.
During the workshop, the House’s Chief Legal Counsel, Mussa Kombo presented a paper on Legal Regulations and Conditions for Journalists Covering the House, while the Director of Zanzibar Broadcasting Commission (ZBC), Omar Chande Omar discussed Journalistic Ethics and Accountability on Parliamentary Reporting including the relevant code of conduct for journalists covering the House. The House Standing Orders as well as the Immunities, Powers and Privileges Act were also discussed.
In subsequent discussions, the participants averred that the skills gained from the training would enable them cover House proceeding with confidence. It was noted that the media’s capacity to effectively cover House proceedings has been hampered by, among other things, insufficient access to information from the House and its Standing Committees, limited understanding of the legislative processes and relevant historical background of the House, political processes, individual Members and their parties as well as lack of trust in the media by some Members. These challenges have been contributing to occasional bias and inaccurate coverage of the legislature.
Participants proposed some improvements at the House to facilitate real-time and effective coverage of the various sessions. These include the need for official recognition of a House press corps and the establishment of a state of the art press gallery within the House. Apart from knowledge and information sharing, the event provided a unique opportunity for the House and the media to gain insights into and a better understanding of each other’s expectations and experiences.
This article was contributed by National UN Volunteer Stella Kago, Project Officer, LSP, Zanzibar House of Representatives.
The Legislatures Support Project (LSP) contributes to the capacity development goals of the National Assembly’s Corporate Plan and the Zanzibar House of Representatives Strategic Plan which set out the dimensions and priorities for the further development of the Legislatures.