Arusha, Tanzania | By Michael Wandati | A new regional media regulatory initiative dubbed East Africa Press Councils (EAPC) has been officially launched with the primary goal of standardizing media practices and fostering an independent media landscape within the East African Community (EAC).
This platform, known as the East Africa Press Councils (EAPC), acts as an overarching organization that unites various media regulatory authorities from the EAC Partner States. The EAPC’s core mission is to champion the cause of free, autonomous, professional, and accountable media in the East African region.
EAC Secretary General, Peter Mathuki, who delivered a speech through Dr. Irene Isaka, the Director of Social Sectors at the EAC Secretariat, expressed optimism about the potential positive impact of the EAPC.
Mathuki anticipates that the EAPC’s establishment will lead to a more independent and dynamic media environment that, in turn, can help advance the principles of democracy, social justice, and human rights throughout the expanded EAC region, which now spans from the East to the West Coast of Africa.
Mathuki stressed the importance of independent and professional journalism as a cornerstone of any democratic system. He highlighted that without these elements, freedom of expression is compromised, as are the fundamental rights of members of society. He also emphasized that media regulation should aim to enable effective and accountable media in service to the public, rather than stifling media through excessive control and over-regulation.
“A vibrant media is essential for the attainment of social justice, rule of law, accountability, equality and protection of human and peoples’ rights. The wider society loses out when media cannot do its work independently and professionally as channels of free expression are strangled and public interest information is stifled, including through deterioration of investigative journalism,” he said.
“Without robust, independent journalism, society, more so the weak, including women and youth, lose out as they have neither means nor relevant information to hold leaders to account and to demand what they are rightly entitled to,” added Dr. Mathuki.
The Secretary General pointed out that, given the people-centric and market-driven nature of the East African integration process, the media plays a crucial role in conveying the integration message to the grassroots, who are the true owners of this process. He called for the media to be well-informed about the integration process so that they can convey it in simple terms to the general public, emphasizing that media empowerment in matters of integration is key.
Mohbare Matinyi, representing Tanzania’s Minister of Information, Communication, and Technology, Nape Moses Nauye, urged the media to leverage new technologies to educate and inform the public on culturally, politically, and economically significant matters. He emphasized the inevitable transformation of the media industry due to technological advances and cautioned against the misuse of digital media for personal interests.
Matinyi expressed hope that the EAPC would serve as a valuable forum for media and press councils to exchange experiences, discuss regulatory issues, and advise their respective governments and media organizations on achieving the objectives of a free, independent, professional, ethical, accountable, patriotic, and responsible media.
Kajubi Mukajanga, Chairperson of the EAPC and Executive Director of the Media Council of Tanzania, outlined EAPC’s commitment to strengthening and promoting independent media regulatory bodies in East Africa. This effort aims to raise awareness and promote self-regulation through Press/Media Councils as a viable means of holding media accountable while fostering media pluralism and diversity.
David Omwoyo, the EAPC Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Media Council of Kenya, stressed the importance of universal media standards across the entire EAC region. He noted that different media regulatory standards across Partner States present challenges to the growth and effective watchdog role of the media industry.
Emmanuel Mugisha, EAPC Treasurer and Executive Secretary of the Rwanda Media Commission, highlighted Rwanda’s use of media literacy to prepare youth and the public to use the media space responsibly. Rwanda is also working to empower the media to inform and educate the public for personal growth and sustainable development.
Mugisha further emphasized the importance of African nations sharing their own stories to counter the negative image of Africa perpetuated by Western media, promoting narratives that present a more just and accurate representation of the continent.
“As Africans, we need to tell our own story, stories that are in our own favour and portray a just image of ourselves,” he said.