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‘Daily News’ failed to verify claims on gains of Tanzania union

In seeking to gain and sustain public trust, journalists must strive to verify information before publishing.

In their daily work of harvesting and purveying news, journalists encounter sources of diverse character. For that, there’s a dictum passed on to learners in journalism training schools that no news source shall be taken at face value; that whatever a source says must be verified before being relayed to consumers. There’s always that dash of vested personal interest in a source who volunteers to give information.

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, the Daily News published a story on the Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office, Sulemani Jafo, on a raft of achievements made “in 60 years of [the] union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.”

Speaking in Dodoma on Friday, April 5,2024, Dr Jafo is said to have enumerated a raft of achievements in education, health, and water sectors.

Titled, Minister Jafo highlights what Union has achieved in key sectors’, the story sounded like a reminder to Tanzanians to recall and toast the coming together of mainland Tanganyika and the islands of Zanzibar 6o years ago, and to firm their collective oneness to the political union.

Dr Jafo was reported to have said: “In our Union, we have made major strides in health sector with more than 9,000 health centres that have been built. In every council, you find health facilities and dispensaries that are providing services to people.”

Reporter Benjamin Ben showed no evidence of fact-checking this claim by saying where the health centres are located between the mainland and the islands. He, therefore, yanked open the door to speculation.

According to the story, the United Republic of Tanzania received $600m from the International Monetary Fund in 2021 in Covid-19 support: “The IMF board approved a disbursement of 189 million US dollars to Tanzania under its Rapid Credit Facility (RCF), as well as 378 million under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI).” A simple addition of the figures returns a deficit of $33m. Again, there’s no explanation given.

The story said that “[a]lmost 100 million US dollars went to Zanzibar, the money was used for construction of modern classroom blocks and also, in each district of the Isles, there is a well-stocked hospital providing services to people.” Readers aren’t told whether or not this $100m was part of the sum total of $600 given by the Bretton Woods institution. Part of the money, the paper said, “was invested in developing water projects in both Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar as well as fostering education sector through construction of classrooms.” There was no mention of the number of projects, their costs, or where – exactly – they are located.

Daily News quoted Dr Jafo attributing “the prevailing peace and security” to the climb in numbers of foreign tourists visiting Tanzania: “In Zanzibar, you see an increasing number [a]irplanes landing with big number of tourists, the similar scenario is at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) and at Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) leading to economic growth in [sic] both sides of the Union thanks to the strong unity we have.” There was no exploration on the other – perhaps more important – attraction factors to explain the boom in the sector. Also, the story was silent on the exact numbers of tourists that had visited, and over what period of time.

The story quotes the minister as toasting the “Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF) which operates in both sides of the Union” for “bringing significant development.” However, TASAF wasn’t defined. Ditto its components, and what wings of “development” it had visited on the general public. All the story offered about the programme was this: “I can say TASAF projects have made outstanding performance in both mainland and Zanzibar not forgetting projects that facilitate environment issues…all these are remarkable successes that we are enjoying as Tanzanians.”

The reporter should have conducted basic research to check if minister Jafo’s claims were true and also put them in context so as to achieve readers’ trust in the story. For example, he should have given a brief history of the United Republic of Tanzania. For example, that Tanzania resulted from the unification of the mainland Tanzania and the Zanzibar islands. And that Tanganyika and Zanzibar united on April 26, 1964.

Two, the writer should have had a quick look at data from the Central Bank of Tanzania and relevant government ministries to confirm the figures on foreign aid bandied by the minister. A glimpse into the use of the funds received would have also added value to the story.

Three, the Daily News story failed to explore reasons for enhanced performance of tourism as a sub-sector of the national economy. Explaining away improved touristic visits on peace and security alone amounts to exposing the writer’s ignorance on the sub-sector.

Lesson learnt? That ministers are also politicians who, invariably, are given to only looking at the positive aspects of their government. It’s the duty of journalists to verify whatever information they give before ‘going to town.’

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