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TZ speaker wins global parliamentary job but Citizen gives her short shrift


Tanzania’s National Assembly Speaker Tulia Ackson was last Friday elected president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

According to The Citizen, delegates to the 147th IPU congress, held in Luanda, Angola, gave Tulia the nod with 172 out of the total 303 votes cast.

The paper gave the results of the other contestants: Adji Diarra Mergane Kanouté (Senegal, 52 votes), Catherine Gorani Hara (Malawi, 61), and Marwa Abdibashir Hagi (Somalia, 11 votes).

Dr Ackson replaced Duarte Pacheco from Portugal and is to serve a three-year term during which she will be the political leader of IPU, preside over all its sessions and represent the organisation in all international events.

There’s a catch, though. The IPU president must maintain her status as a Member of Parliament for the entirety of her tenure.

The Citizen reporter provided readers with a bit of relevant history of IPU’s top leadership: “For 25 years, the IPU presidency has been dominated by parliamentarians from Egypt, Spain, India, Italy, Namibia, Morocco, Bangladesh, Mexico and Portugal.”

The 11-para story ended with a reminder that the IPU held its meeting in Luanda “from October 23 to October 27.”

Reading through the story – and considering the enhanced role the event handed Tanzania in global parliamentary diplomacy – The Citizen’s reportage was underwhelming. It failed to address several necessary angles.

For example, the story did not explain IPU’s core values and mission, its membership, and the significance of the election of Dr Ackson to Tanzania, Africa, and the world. There was reason a high tide of congratulatory messages – from Dar es Salaam and abroad – greeted the announcement. In the same breath, what authoritative formula did the The Citizen reporter apply to say that “Dr Ackson only needed at least half of all the votes, amounting to 152 votes to emerge as the winner”?

Second, the reporter failed to explain to readers why the Tanzanian candidate easily thrashed her competitors. Interestingly, the coverage of the same event by MwananchiThe Citizen’s Swahili sister publication owned by the Nation Media Group – had more analytical details.

Reporter Peter Elias’s article, ‘Mambo matatu kumbeba Dr Tulia mbio za urais IPU’ carried interviews with politicians and diplomacy scholars and offered three reasons: Experience, support from relevant different national and African organisations, and the fact she was already an insider leading the IPU African Geopolitical Group.

However, even Elias didn’t disclose the status of the good ladies who ran against Dr Ackson. Yes, their names and countries of origin were given, but we weren’t told whether they were ordinary parliamentarians or speakers from their countries. Where were the reporters to seek that information from? The official website of IPU.

Third – and this is for the benefit of non-Tanzanians – The Citizen reporter didn’t tell readers more about Dr Ackson. Other than being Tanzania’s speaker, what’s her education and employment history or political experience? Anything short of interviewing her, this information is available on the official website of Parliament of Tanzania.

Also, the EastAfrican, another sister publication of The Citizen, captured so many details about Dr Ackson. Reporter Bob Karashani compiled a powerfully informative story, including that: It was the first time all the four candidates for the IPU presidency were women, and from Africa; Dr Ackson, who is turning 47 on November 23, holds a PhD in law, first joined Parliament in 2015 as a presidential nominee and was elected MP for Mbeya Urban Constituency in 2020.

Lessons learnt? Global organisations such as IPU usually host active and informative official websites. These should be any discerning reporter’s first catchments for relevant information on forthcoming or current events. Knowledge of current affairs is a crucial skill for any journalist keen on covering events with far reaching implications for local and international consumers. Media outlets sharing ownership must learn to, also, share content.

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